A little over a year ago, in February 2008, I was writing about the SBInet program in this blog. SBInet, as a refresher, is the DHS/Customs and Border Patrol virtual border fence. At the time, it looked like SBInet was about to die on the vine. The system that Boeing had come up with was plainly panned by the Government Acountability Office, largely because the software meant to pull in all the sensor and map and camera data wasn't up to the task. It didn't sound like it was Boeing's fault; sometimes even the best integrator is asked to use legacy software or equipment that really doesn't fit. In this case, it was said to be a CBP dispatch software that was the weak link in the chain. Because of that, they put the project on hold and many thought that the project had likely breathed its last breath.
Now, a CBP official says renewed construction is imminent for the project. Which makes me wonder: Were they able to improve the existing software, and if not, what did they develop that is going to allow this to work -- even if it's a scaled-down sensor/camera network? It also makes me wonder -- how truly imminent really is the construction part of the project if the GAO is criticizing the spending plan for this initiative?
There still seem to be a lot of questions about the "virtual border fence", and as I've said before, whether it fails or succeeds, it's destined to be a defining and educational project for all aspects of the security industry. The prototype was for 28 miles of a border -- that's a lot of distance, to be sure, but the full U.S. southern border extends some 2,000 miles. It's an ambitious project, no matter how you approach it.