DHS sets SBINet sticker price at $7.6B through 2011

Uncle Sam's Homeland Security Department is growing up fast and wants to spend $7.6 billion of the "allowance" Congress will provide through fiscal 2011 to buy the SBINet border control technology it covets.

Not all of the $7.6 billion SBINet spending forecast represents new budget authority, according to an overview of the program that department officials provided to Congress Dec. 1.

For example, the DHS calculation states that $362 million of the total represents funds from prior budget years. Some of those funds may be carried over or represent assets or balances that could be applied to SBINet work.

But IT vendors likely will focus on the $3.56 billion penciled in for acquisition costs for 2008 through 2011 and the $1.4 billion set to be spent on SBINet Integrated Logistics support, according to the DHS plan.

The new plan outlines several elements of the border control technology project in more detail than DHS had issued before. In addition to a more detailed mission statement, the refined plan covers performance goals and measures as well as SBINet's schedule, resource needs and required capital assets. The report also covers "core enablers of success," such as better intelligence collection and sharing; upgraded collaboration and communication; and improved department management methods.

The report contains a matrix of dozens of computer systems, most of which already exist, that will play a part in DHS three-stage set of goals for SBINet. The report does not go into great detail about systems that DHS officials have said are likely to comprise the program's expanded border command, control and communications network.

However, the report does provide a wealth of statistical information that characterizes the scale of DHS' task in gaining control of illegal immigration. Some of the statistics reflect increased use of systems for interior immigration law enforcement.

For example, DHS is working to expand the use of the Basic Pilot program, a system that employers can voluntarily use to screen newly hired workers and verify their employment eligibility.

Basic Pilot employee queries have increased from 1 million in 2005 to 1.7 million so far in the 2006 federal budget cycle, which began Oct. 1, DHS reported. The number of employers participating in the Basic Pilot Program has increased from 5,899 last year to 11,474 now, according to the report. DHS plans to expand the Basic Pilot program to all seven million employers in the country under pending immigration reform legislation.

The report's three-stage implementation plan covers four subcategories under the first goal of gaining control of the borders. The second goal, strengthening interior enforcement and compliance with immigration and customs laws, is made up of three subcategories. The third goal, creation of a temporary worker program, has repeatedly foundered in Congress.

Wilson P. Dizard III is a staff writer for Washington Technology's affiliate publication, Government Computer News.

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