The Bush-Obama Era In Action—The Uselessness Of A Virtual Fence
February 18, 2009, 04:23 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

From the WSJ, we can infer that the "virtual fence" along the border is actually failing:

A troubled $8 billion project to erect a "virtual fence" along the nation's southwestern border has received a boost, with federal officials giving the go-ahead for Boeing Co. to resume work, and the economic-stimulus package providing new funding for it [$100 million, which might be the smallest dollar amount I've typed in a couple of weeks].

But the project's government overseer said significant challenges remain. Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative program, said the biggest may be tamping down public expectations that technology can solve the country's illegal-immigration and border-security issues.

"We fell into a message that this technology was going to be a great, God-given gift to border security," said Mr. Borkowski, who last October became the third official to head the project in as many years. "Now we need to do a better job of marketing what it will — and won't — be producing." He said the technology isn't a panacea — it is meant only to be a tool for agents on the ground.

The government awarded the virtual-fence contract to Boeing in late 2006, in a project known as SBInet. The project aims to send real-time data on illegal crossings to border agents by integrating cameras, sensors, radar and mobile communications in a virtual fence along the Mexican border.

Technical hurdles have dogged the project ever since the concept of a virtual fence, designed by Boeing, was first tested on the ground. As a result, the government put the project on hold last year.

Early testing revealed problems ranging from radars that were tripped by rainfall to an inability to connect and integrate all of the system's pieces. "It's easy to think you can go buy off-the-shelf stuff and string it all together," said Mr. Borkowski. "But the reality is there is a certain due diligence we ought to have put into that in the first place."

Although many of the integration problems have been smoothed out, new problems emerged during later testing in New Mexico, Mr. Borkowski said. Software used to run the system is prone to crashing after extended periods of operation, he said. But he also said he thinks this can be fixed.

Despite the emergence of the additional issues, earlier this month the government allowed work on the project to resume.

If the problems are resolved soon, border patrol agents could start running the system and getting feeds on a regular basis by the end of the summer, Mr. Borkowski said.

C'mon, we don't need a breakthrough in string theory, we need a fence. It's not really that complicated. The Israelis built a non-virtual border fence that keeps out suicide bombers, who are, by definition, highly motivated.

Basically, the Bush Administration didn't want a working border fence and the Obama Administration doesn't either, so they both futz around with this bogus "virtual fence" as a distraction from finishing a real fence.