SBInet off to Inauspicious Start

Software integration continues to bedevil border-security plan


Guards along the U.S. border with Mexico have not yet begun using the first phase of a multiyear, multibillion-dollar program for securing the border four months after lawmakers expected it to be operational.

The delays in the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet) stem from difficulties that Boeing, the lead contractor, has had integrating software. The first phase, called Project 28, is meant to fortify a 28-mile section of the border near Sasabe, Ariz., and demonstrate SBInet's ability to secure larger stretches of the border.

Angered by the delays, lawmakers lashed out at officials from Boeing and Gregory Giddens, executive director of the Homeland Security Department's SBI Program Management Office, at a joint hearing Oct. 24 of the House Homeland Security Committee's Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee and the Management, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee.

Giddens said that although DHS officials were pleased with other projects that involved Boeing, they were not happy with the company's performance on Project 28. Lawmakers discussed the logistics involved in changing contractors with the panel, which included the chief patrol agent from the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector and a representative from the Government Accountability Office. GAO released a report on SBInet's progress on the day of the hearing.

Roger Krone, president of Boeing's Network and Space Systems, said he was fairly confident that the system would be acceptable to the CBP shortly. CBP has not taken delivery of the system.

Boeing said it has already spent more than $40 million -- twice the value of the contract -- on Project 28 as it has worked through complex integration issues. The $20 million task order with DHS was for a fixed amount, and the company does not expect reimbursement for the difference, Krone said.