DHS defends handling of Project 28

Published 3 March 2008

Project 28, built by Boeing along twenty-eight miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, was meant to showcase advanced border security technologies which DHS would use in the more ambitious $8 billion border surveillance system along the U.S.-Mexico border; DHS initially said that the project’s technology failed to deliver on its promise, and gave Boeing a three-year extension; DHS now defends its handling of the project

Facing intense criticism over its handling of Project 28, DHS officials on Friday came out offering strong defense of the way the department’s SBInet border surveillance system is being constructed at the U.S.-Mexican border (for examples of the criticism, see House testimony of a Government Accountability Office [GAO] last Wednesday, and this weekend’s Arizona Republic editorial quotede elsewhere in today’s Daily Wire). The SBInet Virtual Fence prototype along twenty-eight miles of the Arizona-Mexico border — called Project 28 — works and is being retooled for other parts of the border, Secretary Michael Chertoff said. Washington Technology’s Alice Lipowicz writes that the $20 million Project 28, built by Boeing, is aimed to showcase technologies which are likely to be used if the department builds an estimated $8 billion border surveillance system in the southwestern U.S.“We are not mothballing Project 28. It did work,” Chertoff said in a speech Thursday. “There are some things in it that we want to improve, and there are some things that probably it turns out we don’t really need. But I envision that we will use this design in other parts of the border, but not in the entirety of the border. It works better in certain kinds of terrain, and in other kinds of terrain we’ll use a different approach.”

Chertoff was responding to critical remarks by Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at GAO, at a congressional hearing Wednesday. Stana said the initial twenty-eight-mile segment of the system does not meet all the needs of its users. Furthermore, Stana said, DHS will delay completion of the next phase of SBInet for three years and will not replicate the prototype elsewhere. Chertoff’s response contradicted that assertion. On Friday DHS officials released another statement about the project, explaining why the department accepted the prototype Press Secretary Laura Keehner said the prototype was designed to demonstrate critical technologies and system integration. “Specifically, its purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of the SBInet technical approach developed by Boeing and to show that this type of technology could be deployed to help secure the southwest border of the United States,” she wrote. “The intended objective has been achieved