Border securityFixing failed SBInet: Contract delays, quality issues at CBP

By Robert Lee Maril

Published 9 February 2016

Since DHS secretary Janet Napolitano in 2011 cancelled the failed SBInet program, CBP’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) has awarded defense contractors approximately $186,000,000 to replace it. Mark Borkowski’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) has created problems which directly impacting safety and productivity of Border Patrol agents: The needlessly delayed Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT) project has once again placed Border Patrol agents in harm’s way because the men and women who risk their lives patrolling the line still do not possess sophisticated surveillance technology to fight the drug cartels, human traffickers, and potential terrorists crossing our international borders.

Since Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in 2011 cancelled the failed SBInet program (Secure Border Initiative network), CBP’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) has awarded defense contractors approximately $186,000,000 to replace it. CBP awarded significant funds to contractors to produce five major surveillance technologies for use along the southern border. These surveillance technologies are crucially required for our national security because SBInet, the so-called virtual fence, was never successfully completed.

Mark Borkowski, who served as the senior executive in charge of SBInet from 2006 to 2010, was promoted in 2010 to the CBP’s Assistant Commissioner and Chief Acquisition Officer. As such he currently leads OTIA. Boeing, Inc., the primary contractor for SBInet under the supervision of Borkowski, received approximately $1.2 billion but only constructed twenty communication towers in Arizona.

CBP currently calls these towers, all that are left of the failed SBInet program, Block 1. In 1989 the program to integrate border surveillance technology was called ICAD, then, when ICAD failed, it was called ICAD II, then ICAD III, then ISIS (Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System), followed by the American Shield Initiative (ASI), the Secure Border Initiative Tactical Initiative (SBI TI), then Project 28 and P-28, and, finally, before the most recent name change in 2012, it was sometimes referred to as Tuscon-1 and Ajo-1.

A total of five CBP contracts awarded by Borkowski’s OTIA since SBInet have gone to various companies to build the Mobile Surveillance Capabilities (MSC) Program, the Ultra-light Aircraft Detection (ULAD) Systems, the Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) Program, the Mobile Video Surveillance Systems (MVSS), and the Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT). Awardees include ICX Platforms Corporation, Telephonics Corporation, SRC Tec Inc., Management Services Group Inc., EFW, Mistral Inc., and Tactical Micro.

However, as was the case with SBInet from 2006 until 2011, the majority of these newest border surveillance programs have been burdened by a number of agency problems and delays. These problems and delays directly impact both the efficiency and safety of Border Patrol agents in the field. These security challenges facing Border Patrol agents in turn adversely impact national security along our border with Mexico.