Friday, June 18, 2010

DHS backing off Mexico border fence

It was once an ambitious plan, to build a fence with the most sophisticated technology along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Originally expected to run about 655 miles, the troubled, multibillion-dollar project has now been reduced to a plan for 387 miles, and its designers have lowered its technical standards “to the point that … system performance will be deemed acceptable if it identifies less than 50 percent of items of interest that cross the border.”

“The result,” said the Government Accountability Office in a withering report Thursday afternoon, “is a system that is unlikely to live up to expectations.”

DHS doesn’t even have “a reliable master schedule for delivering” even the “first block of SBInet,” as the Secure Border Initiative is known.

“As a result, it is unclear when the first block will be completed, and continued delays are likely,” the GAO said.

Meanwhile, DHS doesn’t have a realistic grasp of SBINet’s future costs, investigators found.

All in all, the report amounted to a grim picture of the project’s future, noting its “decreasing scope, uncertain timing, unclear value proposition, and limited life cycle management discipline and rigor ….”

It "remains unclear,” the GAO said, “whether the department’s pursuit of SBInet is a cost effective course of action, and if it is, that it will produce expected results on time and within budget.”

Indeed, DHS is rethinking the whole thing, SBINet’s executive directortold Congress, according to the National Journal’s Web site.

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