DHS awards Boeing SBI-Net contract

The Homeland Security Department will turn to Boeing Co. to provide the networking backbone for the department's highly anticipated Secure Border Initiative Network, congressional and industry sources said.

A formal announcement from DHS is expected tomorrow, the officials added.

The Washington Post, the parent company of Washington Technology, first reported the award this morning.

Capitol Hill sources said that under appropriations legislation, DHS cannot officially announce the deal until three days after notifying the congressional appropriations committees.

SBI-Net is the government's latest effort to solve the longstanding problem of securing the border. Several companies?including Lockheed Martin Co., Raytheon Co., Northrop Grumman and Ericsson?submitted bids for the contract in late May.

Industry observers have estimated the contract could be worth more than $2 billion.

In pursuing the SBI-Net contract, the Boeing team highlighted its experience in managing large groundbreaking projects for the government as well as Israeli-based expertise in border security.

Boeing hopes to leverage its experience managing similar one-of-a-kind programs, such as the Army's Future Combat System and NASA's International Space Station, Wayne Esser, capture team leader of the Boeing team, said in a recent interview. Boeing is the lead systems integrator for combat systems and prime contractor for the space station.

"This is a big challenge for DHS, and we at Boeing have the experience and the processes in place to succeed with complex, politically challenging, high-risk programs," Esser said.

Boeing's team members include systems integrator Unisys Corp., as well as a Merrimack, N.H.-based surveillance technology firm Kollsman Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd. of Haifa, Israel.

Elbit handles a large portion of Israel's border security surveillance system with integrated sensors, radars, a "smart fence" and cameras, as well as sophisticated points of entry. But Elbit's expertise in Israel is not entirely applicable in SBI-Net because Israel's border is "locked down" while the U.S. border favors an open flow of commerce and people, Esser said.

Boeing will deploy unmanned aerial vehicles in its SBI-Net solution, but it will use only one small type of UAV that can be launched easily for a reconnaissance or surveillance mission, Esser said.

While not including facial recognition technology in its initial SBI-Net proposal, the Boeing team's plan does allow for a specific form of the technology expected to be available in the spring of 2007, Esser said. "We are looking at a technology that is advanced and can pick a face in the crowd."

About the Authors

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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