Boeing gets green light to build SBInet sections

The Homeland Security Department is preparing to award a task order to Boeing Co. to install the first two operational segments of the SBInet border surveillance system in Arizona, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday.

The task order has been pending for several months while Boeing worked on an improved common operating picture for the system. DHS made a final acceptance in February of the initial 28-mile prototype of the SBInet virtual fence, known as Project 28, which is installed and operating in Arizona on mobile towers.

The task order is expected to span two new segments, Tucson-1 and Ajo-1, for a total of 53 miles of the Arizona/Mexico border. They are to be the first permanent installations of the $30 billion Secure Border Initiative surveillance system composed of cameras, radars and sensors strung on towers. The system is connected with communications systems and software to create a common operating picture.

"We plan to award the Arizona Deployment Task Order contract to Boeing to install the first operational configuration of this concept in two areas within the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol," Chertoff said.

"We continue to invest resources to develop, install and integrate our SBInet technology solutions to help Customs and Border Protection and the Border Patrol get effective control of our nation's border," he said.

The new sections are adjacent to and in some cases overlap the Project 28 section, according to Boeing officials. The Project 28 mobile towers will come down and be replaced with permanent towers, and the surveillance system itself ? the backbone network, software, cameras and sensors ? is being upgraded and integrated in a lab before placement in the Tucson-1 and Ajo-1 sections, the Boeing officials said.

In addition to the SBInet system, Customs and Border Protection will continue to deploy supplementary systems, including four unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based mobile surveillance systems and independent ground sensors.

"Do these efforts work? The answer is yes. We continue to see a decrease in apprehensions?as compared to the same period in prior years: Sixteen percent on the Southwest border and 15 percent overall," Chertoff said Monday.

At the same time, he said efforts to tighten the border were resulting in increased violence against Border Patrol agents by people who are attempting to enter the United States illegally. Since Oct. 1, 2007, there have been 744 incidents of violence against agents, a 26 percent increase.

Boeing officials said recently that the two new segments could be completed as early as December.

The Bush administration has asked for $775 million for SBInet in fiscal 2009.

Boeing, of Chicago, ranks No. 2 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

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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