Boeing to flip the switch on SBI-Net

The Homeland Security Department's new border surveillance system is going live for the first time on Wednesday along a 28-mile section of border in Arizona, dubbed Project 28, according to the prime contractor in charge.

The Secure Border Initiative Network, or SBI-Net, border surveillance system composed of cameras, sensors and communications systems strung on towers along the border began system testing last week in preparation for going live, said Jerry McElwee, program manager for SBI-Net for Chicago-based Boeing Co., which won the SBI-Net contract in September 2006.

The actual date of initial operations is Wednesday: "June 13, 2007, marks an important date for the SBI-Net program and for the Department of Homeland Security as a whole," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a June 7 congressional hearing. "On that date, Project 28 is scheduled to be fully operational, and we will begin to learn whether this $20 million initial investment is going to be a success."

Boeing chose the 28-mile section because it is a high-traffic area that will be a good testing ground, McElwee said.

Boeing has deployed nine mobile towers, each with radar, day/night cameras and other sensors. Each tower also has data processing and communications equipment to effectively distribute information to control centers, mobile units, agent vehicles and other law enforcement personnel. The information is processed into a common operating picture, computer application that provides a near real-time view of the location of suspected intrusions as well as the location of department personnel, vehicles and other assets.

"This capability dramatically improves the situational awareness of agents in the field, the command centers and sector headquarters," McElwee told the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

Boeing was awarded the initial indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for SBI-Net along with the task order for the first 28-mile section. It expects to receive additional task orders for the project, which is anticipated to cost about $8 billion.

Boeing sponsored an industry meeting day on May 30 attended by nearly 900 people representing more than 400 companies, McElwee said. The company has 55 requests for proposal for additional technologies to be deployed along the border.

"Project 28 gives us a demonstration of our approach and a test bed for incorporating improvements. The expanded team refreshes out technology, ensures low prices and gives us the capacity to execute on the much larger task orders that lie ahead," McElwee said.

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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