Past Features

October 16, 2017

Border watchdog questions House
action on technology

Left: Boeing SBInet tower Right: Integrated Fixed Tower
--- Photos by American Border Patrol
Glenn Spencer -- October 16, 2017
Which is it -- SBInet or IFT?
  On October 4, a Senate committee passed a bill proposed by Senator McCain:
    FCW: Border tech bill clears Senate committee
   The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved a bill that would require "major" border technology acquisition programs at the Department of Homeland Security to have set cost, scheduling and performance targets, and have those limits approved by top managers before they proceed.
    Sen. McCain had originally introduced the bill on January 12, 2017, together with a press release:
    The joint press release included this:
    "New technologies such as video and radar surveillance are critical to securing our borders.
     However, widespread mismanagement and a lack of accountability within our federal bureaucracy have prevented us from using these technologies to stop illegal immigration, put an end to human trafficking, and reduce crime in communities in Arizona and across the Southwest."
    Having followed border technology projects very closely for fifteen years, I was convinced that “video and radar surveillance” technology had to mean the Integrated Fixed Towers --- now under scrutiny by the Trump administration.
    I later learned that, not only had Rep. McSally introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives --- it was passed on a voice-vote on January 31, 2017.
    Arguing for the bill, Rep. McSally made special reference to problems with managing border technology projects --- but only with the Secure Border Initiative.
  "The Secure Border Initiative, also known as SBInet, is a prime example of acquisition mismanagement. Initial plans developed in 2005 and 2006 call for SBInet to extend across the entire U.S.-Mexico land border; however, SBInet deployment in Arizona was fraught with mismanagement, including a failure to adequately set requirements so the system would meet the needs of its users: our border patrol agents."
    McCain and McSally might argue that problems with mismanagement of "video and radar surveillance” technology referred to in their joint press release meant SBInet --- and only SBInet.
    If so, it seems we are to believe that they were suddenly concerned with a ten-year-old problem, while ignoring recently installed Integrated Fixed Towers ---
which I tried to expose two years ago --- and late last year.
    I have said that the McCain McSally bill was quite possibly designed as a CYA in case the Integrated Fixed Tower project became came unraveled, which was increasingly likely. If so, by pushing McSally's bill through without a recorded vote, Speaker Ryan certainly helped by putting her squarely on the side of reform  --- even though at a hearing of her subcommittee six months earlier, Chairwoman McSally had praised the IFT project: "But as far as I can tell, the only procurement that is working well and on budget is the Integrated Fixed Tower program, located principally in my district..."
    As the Trump administration reveals issues with the Integrated Fixed Tower project --- as I expect in the coming weeks --- I give the mainstream media complete authority to use my research to tell the true story behind any reports of the failure of IFTs to do the job.
Note: Eleven years ago I predicted that the SBInet project would fail.