Obama Administration Scraps 'Virtual Border'

The over-budget, under-performing multi-billion SBInet, which had only been deployed over 53 miles of border in four years, will be replaced with a more geographically tailored approach.
Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters

"The new plan complements the Administration’s unprecedented investments in manpower, infrastructure, and resources along the Southwest border and will utilize funding previously requested for SBInet and provided in the continuing resolution," Napolitano said.

Last year's review, which combined a science-based review with the input of technology experts and U.S. Border Patrol agents, determined that SBInet would have been unable to meet its original goals. The report, which found that certain elements of the SBInet deployment were successful, also determined that SBInet's one-size-fits-all approach wouldn't be viable along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Report after report had shown the project's failures, beginning soon after the initial $2.5 billion contract was issued to Boeing in September 2006. Typical is a May 2010 report, in which the Government Accountability Office said that the project's capabilities "have continued to shrink from what the department committed to deliver."

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the House committee on homeland security, who has previously expressed concern about SBInet's problems, applauded the move in a statement. "The SBInet has been a grave and expensive disappointment since its inception," he said. His committee had held no less than 11 hearings on the project and commissioned five reports from the GAO since its inception.

DHS hinted at the project's impending demise in announcing a 30-day extension of Boeing's contract last month, saying that the agency would move forward with a "new approach to southwest border technology" as soon as it secured funding for this fiscal year. Boeing's contract will continue through at least September 2011 to support other, non-SBInet activities along the southern border.