Just two months after Homeland Security head honcho Michael Chertoff extolled the wonderful test project of the Virtual Border Fence prototype near Tucson, Arizona. The project has been scrapped.

The fence consisted of 9 towers constructed along a 28 mile length of the Arizona/Mexico boarder. Armed with all sorts of exotic gadgetry this virtual fence was supposed to alert immigration officials of people crossing the border. The $20 million prototype appears to have been an abject failure.

One would think that having frittered away $20 mil of the $860 mil originally awarded the government might want to reconsider the Boeing contract. I know I would. Not so though, Boeing are instead going to try again. They are going to build some new towers, and put better cameras and radar systems on them. No doubt it will be a $50 million fiasco in round two. One can only assume that the Virtual Fence contact is the government’s way of keeping Boeing sweet following the air tanker fiasco!

Why was it a failure? Apparently Boeing did not seek the input of the border agents, and instead developed the system in isolation. The end result is a system that is unusable at the field level.

AP has an interesting article, that contains the following:

A glaring shortcoming of the project was the time lag between the electronic detection of movement along the border and the transmission of a camera image to agents patrolling the area, the GAO reported.

Maybe the Fed’s would be better off giving Lou Dobbs a few million dollars, and he could whip the lunatic fringe into a vigilante frenzy to patrol the border instead. Who knows, with the right sort of incentive he might take the mission on full time, and we would not have to put up with the insufferable boor on our TV screens.

Simon Barrett


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