Signed, sealed, delivered: Boeing gets SBI-Net

Secure Border Initiative Network

Staff writer Alice Lipowicz answered questions about the Homeland Security Department's Secure Border Initiative Network during an online forum.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today confirmed the selection of Boeing Co. as the prime contractor for the Secure Border Initiative Network surveillance system to be deployed along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.

The system will be a "virtual fence," Chertoff said. "We will use proven tools used here and around the world."

Chicago-based Boeing will be awarded an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for the border surveillance system, Chertoff said at the press conference. The initial term will be three years, with three one-year options, he said.

The initial task order is for a $67 million systems engineering and management contract, which will be followed by a task order to implement a surveillance solution along a 28-mile portion of the U.S.-Mexico border near Tucson, Ariz., by spring 2007. That section was chosen because it is among the nation's most active in attracting illegal crossings, Chertoff said.

Industry experts have estimated the cost of SBI-Net coverage for the entire border at around $2 billion, but Chertoff declined to confirm a total amount, saying the solution will be phased in over time.

The SBI-Net solution will be flexible and "not a cookie-cutter approach" to adapt to different types of terrain, and will be as inexpensive as possible, Chertoff said.

"We are looking for proven technologies," Chertoff said. "We are not interested in conducting science experiments at the borders."

Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said the Boeing team has proposed a tool kit for the surveillance system and will be coordinating with DHS to choose the best tools for the system.

Chertoff did not provide details on the technologies to be used, but DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson said they would include ground radar, sensors, cameras and camera analytics, aerial platforms and mobile and stationery towers. It will give border agents the ability to view images transmitted from the sensors and cameras, and to point the cameras, he said.

Asked about media reports of 1,800 towers to be installed along the borders, Jackson said both mobile and stationery towers will be used. Furthermore, the technologies for the 28-mile section must be proven before technologies are selected for other portions of the border, he said.

Asked about the 700-mile border fence recently approved by the House of Representatives, Jackson said DHS will work with it.

Gregory Giddens, SBI-Net program manager at DHS, said at the press event that Boeing was chosen because it offered the best value solution, but he did not provide additional details.

Boeing had competed against four other teams led by Ericsson Co. of Stockholm; Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md.; Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles; and Raytheon Corp. of Waltham, Mass.

Boeing ranks No. 15 on Washington Technology's 2006 Top 100 list of the largest government IT contractors.

About the Author

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

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