DHS starts final testing of SBInet

The Homeland Security Department today will begin 45 days of final operational testing on the initial 28-mile segment of the Secure Border Initiative Network surveillance system installed by Boeing Co. near the Arizona-Mexico border, department officials said.

If the field tests are completed satisfactorily, the department will accept the $20 million Project 28 from the Chicago-based contractor, DHS said Dec. 7. The full SBInet system is expected to cost $8 billion to $30 billion.

The announcements coincide with a decision Friday by DHS' Customs and Border Protection to "take conditional possession" of the Project 28 surveillance system, which is referred to as a prototype development in a DHS news release.

Boeing, which was awarded the SBInet contract a year ago, has been testing the system in the field since June. For the initial segment, Boeing installed nine towers equipped with radar and communications systems and automated ground sensors linked to a command-and-control center and border patrol vehicles.

"For the next 45 days, the border patrol will stress the system in an operational setting before fully accepting it from the contractor. [Project 28] testing will contribute to the future design and deployment of technologies at the border," DHS said.

Last week, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked Secretary Michael Chertoff to delay final acceptance of the project until it could deliver certain capabilities to border patrol agents.

Thompson said he was concerned that Project 28 was being revised into a demonstration test bed and prototype program without the full functionality in operation that had been promised. "I urge you to defer acceptance until you are certain that Project 28 performs as originally billed," Thompson wrote Dec. 6.

Customs and Border Protection also said it awarded a $64 million task order to Boeing to design, develop and test an upgraded Common Operating Picture software system for the border patrol command center and vehicles.

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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