The move to freeze funds for a project known as SBInet, unveiled in a statement by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the DHS Web site, comes as little surprise. The DHS is in the process of re-evaluating the project and hinted several weeks ago that it might be scrapped.
"Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost effective way possible," Napolitano said in the statement. She blamed "cost overruns and missed deadlines" for cutting off funding for SBInet until the DHS finishes its assessment of the project.
The DHS plans to reallocate $50 million of Recovery Act money that was meant for SBInet to installing other security technology on the border, Napolitano said.
The installation will include mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements, she said.
Similar technologies are a part of the SBInet plan, but its scope is far more sophisticated. Not only would it install these devices along the fence on nearly the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico, but it also would integrate them via a centralized network and dashboard from which border control could monitor activity along the border.
SBInet originally was scheduled for completion by 2014, but technical glitches and delays held up the project so that only a prototype of the final solution is currently in use on just part of the border between Arizona and Mexico.
The DHS had expected the entire SBInet project to cost $6.7 billion, a readjustment from its original projected budget of $8 billion. To date the DHS has spent about $720 million on current SBInet deployments.