U.S. Customs and Border
Protection is considering applying technologies first developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to help solve its lingering problem of monitoring the southwest borderlands.
Raven unmanned aerial vehicles, blimps with cameras that could peer into Mexico and electro-optical cameras are among the items that could be used on the border, said Mark Borkowski, executive director of the SBI program executive office, at a joint hearing of two House Homeland Security subcommittees.
None of this, however, can move forward until a review of the troubled SBInet program is completed. After four years of missed deadlines, failed tests and some $1.3 billion spent on efforts to construct both physical and so-called "virtual fences" in Arizona, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered the review in January.
SBInet was intended to be a series of high-tech cameras and sensors mounted on towers and placed along the border in two Arizona Border Patrol sectors. Live streaming video feeds of illegal border crossers were supposed to be sent directly to agents in the vehicles. That plan was abandoned when CBP could not fund a communications network in the remote areas. The cameras and sensors did not perform as planned and picked up numerous false readings.
A Government Accountability Office report released at the hearing revealed that CBP had continuously lowered the requirements for the system to where it was "deemed acceptable if it identifies less than 50 percent of the items of interest that cross the border." The number of miles the physical fencing was intended to cover has shrunk from 655 to 387.
Borkowski said deploying the virtual fence along the entire U.S. border probably isn't feasible.
"Already that doesn't look like a wise thing to...