First Part of U.S. Border Network to Be 'Stripped Down'

The first 28-mile section of the $8 billion Secure Border Initiative Network (SBI-Net) border surveillance system will get a streamlined version of the system anticipated for the rest of the border, a federal contractor working on the project said today.

The goal is to finish the first phase, known as Project 28, within eight months and to stick to a budget of $20 million or less, said Brian Seagrave, vice president of border security for Unisys Corp., a subcontractor to Boeing Co. on SBI-Net, speaking at a Congressional forum today.

"This is a stripped down, slimmed down solution," Seagrave said at the border security forum, sponsored by the House Homeland Security Committee.

The surveillance technologies will be installed and activated along the 28-mile section in Arizona in June and will be field-tested to prove their effectiveness, Seagrave said.

One of the largest projects of the Homeland Security Department, SBI-Net is intended to create a virtual fence of sensors, radars and cameras to monitor activity along thousands of miles of U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada. Boeing won the SBI-Net prime contract in September 2006.

For Project 28, the first section of SBI-Net, Boeing officials said they will deploy 98-foot-high mobile towers strung with video cameras, sensors and computer networking equipment into the field by the end of June.

The initial 28-mile section will enable the sensory information and camera feeds to be communicated to border patrol command centers. A common operating picture, which is an integrated, real-time view of various data feeds so that agents can monitor an incident, also is part of Project 28, Seagrave said.

DHS is likely to add more capabilities to later phases of SBI-Net, Seagrave said. Those could include aerial vehicles, networking capabilities, wireless networks and handheld devices allowing border agents to immediately check fingerprints from the field.

It isn't possible to field those mobile biometrics technologies under the initial budget, Seagrave said.