SBInet planning improves, IG says

Goals and requirements are better defined for virtual fence

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has made progress in identifying and providing the right mix of border technologies to meet the needs of the Border Patrol since 2006, according to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard L. Skinner.

The technologies being provided include the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet) being constructed by Boeing Co. in Arizona, as well as physical fencing and vehicle barriers.

From 2006 to 2008, the federal agency took steps forward by defining operational requirements for SBInet, refining those requirements and setting performance objectives for program technologies.

“This helps ensure that resources are applied consistently to meet operational needs,” Skinner wrote in the new report posted on the Web on May 8.

CBP also has clarified intended outcomes for SBInet technology products and systems to ensure that the border patrol’s operational needs are met, the report states.

The assessment is a follow-up to a November 2006 report from the IG that judged the CBP as lacking in organizational capacity to oversee, manage and execute the installation of SBInet. The 2006 report also was critical of CBP’s management of physical fence and vehicle-barrier construction.

The 2006 IG report emphasized the importance of setting operational requirements and parameters as the basis for performance objectives. The requirements are to be used as guidance for cost, schedule and technical performance trade-offs, and are to be used to set assumptions for program plans, schedules and cost estimates.

Since 2006, CBP has developed and published an Operational Requirements Document to establish the operational requirements and performance objectives to drive SBInet plans. CBP is currently making adjustments to the requirements document to provide greater clarity and detail about outcomes, the new report states.

The agency did not clearly document and define a need for physical fencing prior to initiating construction; however, subsequent observations and explanations show that “resources were being applied to bona fide needs,” the IG wrote in the May 8 report.

Furthermore, information on planned SBInet technology products and systems was previously left out of Operational Requirements Based Budget Program documents, the report states. Now those SBInet technologies will be included in the planning documents.

The Tucson, Yuma, and El Paso, Texas, sectors are starting to evaluate both technology and physical-fencing needs, and other Texas and California sectors will be added later, the report states.

“This expanded assessment should improve CBP’s ability to ensure that resources are applied to achieve operational control of the border through a proper mix of technology and tactical infrastructure,” Skinner wrote.

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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