Government Shutting Down Secure Border Initiative Virtual Fence In Favor Of Human Patrol and Drones

Posted Jan 16, 2011

The federal government is canceling the multi-billion dollar plan for building a virtual fence along the southwestern border between Mexico and the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security said that they are shutting down the Secure Border Initiative network (SBInet). Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the virtual fence was costing too much and was not achieving much.

The plan for SBInet started in 2005 as a way to deter illegal border crossing using ground sensors, video cameras, computer software, and communications tower. Boeing Corp. was hired in 2006 for developing the system. At one point, the estimated costs reached as high as $8 billion.

Napolitano is now ordering the Customs and Border Protection to launch a new initiative that would focus on increasing existing resources for preventing illegal border crossing such as drones, human patrol, thermal-imaging devices, and remote video surveillance.

Thus far SBInet had costed $1 billion for the 53 miles it stretched across the Arizona border. The new plan could enhance security across the remaining 323 miles of the Arizona border with a cost of less than $750 million.

“I am pleased to hear that Secretary Napolitano finally allowed the SBInet contract to expire,” stated Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “A complete and thorough investigation should be conducted related to this waste.” In 2006, there were about 10,000 Border Patrol agents. Now there are roughly 20,500.