SBInet contract gets another 30 day extension

The SBInet electronic border surveillance system under construction in Arizona is getting another 30-day extension.

The Homeland Security Department’s troubled SBInet electronic surveillance border security program—still under reassessment--is hanging on for at least another 30 days.

Sources at DHS said Wednesday that the department has renewed Boeing Co.’s contract for the SBInet system for an additional 30 days, starting Dec. 18.

It is the second 30-day extension granted to the program in recent weeks. The contract originally was set to expire in mid-November.


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Meanwhile, Matt Chandler, DHS spokesman, confirmed that the results of Secretary Janet Napolitano’s year-long reassessment of SBInet are expected soon.

“Since its inception, SBInet has had continued and repeated technical problems, cost overruns and schedule delays, raising fundamental questions about SBInet’s ability to meet the needs for technology along the border,” Chandler wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday.

“This year, Secretary Napolitano ordered a department-wide reassessment of the SBInet program that incorporated an independent, quantitative, science-based analysis of alternatives with input of U.S. Border Patrol agents on the front lines and the analysis of the department’s leading science and technology experts to determine if SBInet was the most efficient, effective and economical way to meet our nation's border security needs,” Chandler wrote. “We expect the results shortly and as soon as we have secured FY11 funding, we will move forward with the administration’s new approach to southwest border technology.”

Boeing won the initial three-year contract for SBInet in September 2006, with three one-year options to renew. DHS officials previously had exercised one of the year-long options, along with an additional 30 days.

The Secure Border Initiative Network system was  conceived as a sophistsicated “virtual fence” system of video and radar surveillance linked with command centers that would run along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The initial Arizona sections have cost about $760 million to date.

The first section built was a 28-mile prototype called Project 28, which began operating with mobile towers in February 2008 after a series of delays and technical glitches. Work later began on two permanent sections totaling 53 miles, which are expected to be completed this year.

Meanwhile, the project has been the subject of many critical reports from Congress and the Government Accountability Office, noting problems including uncertain or changing system requirements, technology shortcomings, inadequate user input and cost overruns. Napolitano ordered the reassessment of SBInet in January 2010.

According to testimony from DHS officials in June, SBInet is likely to be scaled down substantially and the existing system may be augmented by unmanned aerial vehicles and mobile systems.