Surprise: we turned it on, it did not work and did not meet the needs of the Border Patrol...

The Washington Post is reporting...

'Virtual Fence' Along Border To Be Delayed -- U.S. Retooling High-Tech Barrier After 28-Mile Pilot Project Fails

It's not OUR  problem anymore...

"The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a 'virtual fence' along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday."

Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson prompted the change in plans, Department of Homeland Security officials and congressional auditors told a House subcommittee.

Though the department took over that initial stretch Friday from Boeing, authorities confirmed that Project 28, the initial deployment of the Secure Border Initiative network, did not work as planned or meet the needs of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Which leads to unanswered questions...

Are we seeing the beginning of a multi-billion dollar boondoggle beset with schedule slippages and massive cost overruns... complete with the government paying for the vendor's entertainment of government officials and other lobbying activities? In other words: business as usual?

Are we seeing government malfeasance on a grand scale. Malfeasance that pushed the prime contractor into cobbling systems together with little planning and testing in order to meet the government's political deadlines?

Or are we seeing something more sinister: a deliberate attempt by the current Administration to avoid being the ones to implement a border fence? For political reasons? For historical reasons? To appease the Mexican Government who is already receiving billions in U.S. aid? To appease the United States Chamber of Commerce who continues to lobby for cheaper labor? Or simply to allow Bush and Chertoff to retire gracefully while making the fence the next president's problem?

"The announcement marked a major setback for what President Bush in May 2006 called "the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history." The virtual fence was to be a key component of his proposed overhaul of U.S. immigration policies, which died last year in the Senate."

They knew they were in trouble...

Investigators for the Government Accountability Office had earlier warned that the effort was beset by both expected and unplanned difficulties. But yesterday, they disclosed new troubles that will require a redesign and said the first phase will not be completed until near the end of the next president's first term.

Those problems included Boeing's use of inappropriate commercial software, designed for use by police dispatchers, to integrate data related to illicit border-crossings. Boeing has already been paid $20.6 million for the pilot project, and in December, the DHS gave the firm another $65 million to replace the software with military-style, battle management software.

Questions abound...

Question: Is DHS capable of managing the project?

Question: Why was such a large pilot project attempted without a smaller "proof of concept" project?

Question: Did the government and the prime contractor use project management software which would have indicated the failure of project components?

Question: Why did the government advance another $65 million dollars to cover the failure of a $28 million dollar failure -- without going for a redesign?

Question: Will the military-grade hardware and software compromise national security if it is stolen by an enemy force?

"Boeing has said that the initial effort, while flawed, still has helped Homeland Security apprehend 2,000 illegal immigrants since September."'

The Border Patrol in concert with the Minutemen could have done better.

Guesstimates instead of estimates...

"It estimated in 2006 that it would spend $7.6 billion through 2011 to secure the entire 2,000-mile southern border, an ambition that was meant to win support from conservatives for legislation creating a guest-worker program and a path to legalization for 12 million illegal immigrants."

"But officials said yesterday that they now expect to complete the first phase of the virtual fence's deployment -- roughly 100 miles near Tucson and Yuma, Ariz., and El Paso, Tex. -- by the end of 2011, instead of by the end of 2008. That target falls outside Boeing's initial contract, which will end in September 2009 but can be extended."

"The virtual fence was to complement a physical fence that the administration now says will include 370 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers to be completed by the end of this year. The GAO said this portion of the project may also be delayed and that its total cost cannot be determined. The president's 2009 budget does not propose funds to add fencing beyond the 700 or so miles meant to be completed this year."

The politics of land acquisition...

"The total cost is not yet known," testified Richard M. Stana, the GAO's director of homeland security issues, because DHS officials "do not yet know the type of terrain where the fencing is to be constructed, the materials to be used, or the cost to acquire the land."

Surely the fence path must have been mapped out before the government could even reasonably estimate its cost. The fence follows the border as the night follows the day.

This is inexcusable and indicates the lack of proper prior planning...

Defense contractors know the sampling rates of their detectors, range data and operation in hostile environments operating under adverse conditions from their military projects.

"GAO investigators said that Boeing's software could not process large amounts of sensor data. The resulting delays made it hard for operators in a Tucson command center 65 miles to the north to lock cameras on targets. Radar systems were also triggered inadvertently by rain and other environmental factors. Cameras had trouble resolving images at five kilometers when they were expected to work at twice that distance, Stana said."

Now we are getting to the truth --  its a  DHS debacle...

"He added that the system was developed with 'minimal input' from Border Patrol agents, resulting in an unworkable 'demonstration project' instead of a operating pilot system. He blamed the DHS for acting too hastily in trying to deliver a working pilot by last June."

The effort produced "a product that did not fully meet user needs, and the project's design will not be used as the basis for future . . . development," Stana testified, adding that the DHS plans to replace most of the components. The Wall Street Journal said Saturday that Boeing's pilot project will not be replicated.

"A non-government source familiar with the project said that the Bush administration's push to speed the project during last year's immigration debate led Boeing to deploy equipment without enough testing or consultation."

Question: Is the DHS too big to manage effectively and is Michael Chertoff, a lawyer, the right guy to lead the department?

"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday that the department will 'take elements' of the pilot project and apply them elsewhere, but that it plans to expand the number of mobile ground surveillance units from a handful to 40, and to double its fleet of three unmanned aerial vehicles. Boeing has offered DHS a $2 million credit from the funds it has already received."

Question: what is the symbolic value of  $2 million credit if it results in further contracts worth billions?

Here we have another political project doomed to failure from unrealistic government expectations and a contractor apparently afraid to say "no" in today's competitive environment.

What can YOU do?

Demand the government secure the border. Regardless of who wins the Presidency, Congress or any of the Administrative Agencies.

Demand that they prove the effectiveness of their so-called electronic fence which may be susceptible to jamming using high-powered microwave devices and laser beams. Or, in the present design, staging your border crossing in the rain.

Place stop loss numbers on government contracts. Do not reward failure with additional millions of follow-on contract dollars.

Use a competition between vendors to determine who will be the prime contractor and implement penalties for fraud, non-performance and bad designs.

Do not vote for any candidate or current politician who is willing to subvert the safety, security, sovereignty and economic strength of the United States or limit an individual's right of self-defense for their personal philosophy, power, prestige or profits.

-- steve

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

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'Virtual Fence' Along Border To Be Delayed

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