Not Again: Is the New Border Sensor Program Also a Boondoggle?

Last week it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security stated that advanced border ground sensors would not be produced until “…the next six to nine months” (Robert Beckhusen, “Homeland Security Delays Plan to Place Sensors on U.S.-Mexico Border”, Wired, 11 February 2013). The program to produce these sensors has not been “cancelled” but “delayed” because of problems, according to DHS, with integrating the ground sensors into the Border Patrol’s current communication system.

Other recent failed security technology which never passed muster along our Mexican border includes the SBInet “virtual wall” contracted to Boeing at a cost of more than $1 billion, along with the “advanced spectroscopic portal” operated by Raytheon for more than $200 million. After many long years, each of these programs was finally declared a failure by DHS and abandoned, but not before all taxpayers’ money allotted them was spent.

In light of the fact that our United States Army has successfully deployed thousands of sophisticated ground sensors in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reasonable to question the competency of the CBP and DHS sensor program.  According to one report, the sensor program has been delayed because of budget cuts and because it lacks the staff to properly oversee the contract.

What remains unclear about the current development of sensors for our Mexican border is how much money has been wasted and who has wasted it.  And why, of equal importance, the CBP and DHS chose or did not choose to put in place the U.S. Army’s proven sensors rather than developing its own high-tech version.

The cost of this apparent boondoggle is not just measured in taxpayer dollars, but the damage to our nation’s welfare and national security by all those who illegally entered this country because our border sensor system cannot distinguish between a human and a cow.  Add to this the  very real concern that Border Patrol agents in their dangerous work continue to risk their lives while waiting for a no-show high tech sensor system which the Border Patrol promises will be ready in, “…six to nine months.”

The time is long past for a border sensor system that works effectively.  Those who bear the responsibility for this decades-long boondoggle should be investigated and punished accordingly.  The United States Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security have far too important a task than to waste our tax dollars on yet another failed technology in the making: first we had the “virtual wall” which did not work; then the “spectroscopic portal program” based upon bad physics; and now the no-show high-tech border sensors.

Three strikes and, at the very least, you should be out.

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