The DHS announced this morning that it is halting construction on the Secure Border Initiative “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexican border. Started by President George W. Bush in 2006, the virtual fence is made up of a series of networked cameras, radar, and communication gear that was designed to help speed the response by U.S. Border Patrol officers to catch illegal immigrants and smugglers crossing the border. The only problem is that it was extremely expensive and utterly ineffective. The Department of Homeland Security spent $3.4 billion to complete 640 of a planned 652 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers. The tech component of that—about 50 camera and radio towers on a 28-mile segment south of Tucson and a 30-mile stretch near Ajo, Arizona, contracted out to Boeing—originally cost $700 million but was recently re-estimated at $6.7 billion. The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) audit arm will release a report tomorrow finding that the government rushed to use off-the-shelf equipment without adequate testing. In addition, this type of technology has a bad track record—between 1998 and 2005, DHS spent $429 million on surveillance initiatives so unreliable that only 1% of alarms led to arrests. Most security experts agree technology is integral to any future security system, but at what cost?
Matthew Chandler, Deputy Press Secretary and border and immigration spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D – Orange County. She is vice-chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism
Charles Pope, interim director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego