Lawmaker protests House SBI-Net controls

Funding conditions included in the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security spending bill could obstruct progress on the Secure Border Initiative Network project, according to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), ranking member of the homeland appropriations subcommittee.

The committee approved $1 billion on June 5 for the SBI-Net border surveillance system consisting of cameras, sensors, towers, fencing and other infrastructure.

Rogers referred to the conditions in a statement he issued as "onerous restrictions" that may delay the project.

"At first glance, these individual fencing and tactical infrastructure requirements appear to be based upon sound policy," Rogers said. "However, added together they are a series of obstacles that can potentially impede installation of critical border security systems essential to our homeland security. I fear that securing the border will be greatly deterred."

Rogers supported an amendment that would have modified the language, but it failed to win committee approval. He intends to continue opposing the language putting conditions on the SBI-Net funding. "There must be a balance between prudent oversight and timely execution of the Department's border security mission," Rogers said.

The SBI-Net surveillance system is intended to stretch across both southern and northern land borders to detect intruders and coordinate intervention. It is one of the department's largest programs with an estimated value of $8 billion to $30 billion.

The first 28-mile section in Arizona is expected to be completed this month with mobile towers, cameras and sensors. DHS awarded the prime contract for the project to Boeing Co. of Chicago in September 2006.

The House appropriations bill also would require DHS to consult on the border infrastructure with state and local communities, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management. Furthermore, it must minimize impacts on natural resources and wildlife and publish environmental waivers in the Federal Register 15 days before execution.

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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