Boeing wins $2 billion SBInet contract

Published 20 September 2006

Company beats out Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and others to win border security prize; a comeback for a company battered by loss of spacecraft competition; L-3, Unisys, and Elbit among happy subcontractors

Boeing overcame stiff competition to win the $2 billion Safe Border Initiative, or SBInet, contract, the Washington Post reported today, citing congressional sources. The contract is a significant achievement for the aerospace and defense giant, which recently suffered a number of setbacks, including the loss this summer in the competition to build the next U.S. manned spacecraft. Industry experts said Boeing won because its plan was less risky and expensive than its compeitors, many of which relied heavily on massive unammed aerial vehicles (UAV) deployments for routine surveillance work. UAVs are expensive and have proven unreliable over the long term. Boeing’s scheme to secure the U.S. northern and southern borders involves only a small number of truck-mounted UAVs to help track and pursue suspects. The company will also install a network of 1,800 towers, each equipped with a variety of sensors, including cameras and heat and motion detectors.

The contest places Boeing in an enviable position as the established U.S. border security integrator in a sector that has attracted such industry giants as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Ericsson, all of which were finalists for the SBInet contract. Officials are likely relieved that recent criticism of the company’s work installing explosive-detection systems at more than 400 airports — investigators charged Boeing with earning excessive profits and using faulty machines — was overlooked.

It is good news, too, for Boeing’s subcontractors L-3 Communications Holdings and Unisys, both of which are quickly establishing themselves as go-to companies in the homeland security market. The Israeli company Elbit has reason to smile as well: the company’s surveillance cameras, capable of spotting people at up to 14 kilometers and vehicles at up to 20 kilometres, will play a major role in the Boeing program. Other Boeing partners include Palm Bay, Florida-based-DRS Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group; and Plano, Texas-based Perot Systems.

-read more in Griff Witte’s Washington Post report