Radar glitch delays Project 28 launch

The first nine towers of the Homeland Security Department's Secure Border Initiative Network surveillance system missed a June 13 deadline for initiating operation due to a radar problem, according to House lawmakers monitoring the high-profile project.

Live operation of the first 28-mile section in Arizona, dubbed Project 28, also is expected to be delayed beyond a second deadline of June 20 due to problems with electronically integrating the nine towers, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter today to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The towers are strung with radars, cameras and communication networks that must be linked to function as a system.

Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, and Sanchez, chair of the Border, Maritime and Global Counterrorism Subcommittee, said they should have been warned of the anticipated delays in the SBInet system going live prior to a June 7 congressional hearing on the project.

"It is difficult to believe that with problems of this magnitude, delays were not foreseeable at the June 7 hearing, which occurred less than a week prior to the date Project 28 was scheduled to be operational," their letter to Chertoff states.

"The Department's failure to be forthcoming and the repeatedly slipping project deadlines not only impede Congress' ability to provide appropriate oversight of the SBInet program, but also undermine the Department's credibility with respect to this initiative," Thompson and Sanchez wrote.

Representatives of DHS, SBInet prime contractor Boeing Co. and SBInet program directors testified at the June 7 hearing on progress with Project 28. However, no mention was made of potential delays with Project 28 at that time, Thompson and Sanchez contend.

Thompson said he was informed of the pending delay by a phone call from a DHS official on June 8. Thompson and Sanchez said it is unacceptable that the information was disclosed after the hearing.

The House Homeland Security Committee was informed of the second likely delay in SBInet's first nine towers on June 15, the letter states.

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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