Pulling the plug in SBInet

Pulling the Plug

DHS halts funding for failed electronic border surveillance system

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has halted funding for the Secure Border Initiative-Net, a system of towers, cameras, radar and sensors initially hailed as "the most comprehensive effort in the nation's history" to assist northern and southern border agents with curtailing illegal immigration.

SBInet was intended to replace other failed border security initiatives—the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System, a system of remotely monitored day/night surveillance cameras and sensing systems, and the America Shield Initiative, an integrated, national web of border security with centralized command designed to gain greater control of the borders.

Under the contract won by Boeing in 2006, SBInet's goal was to deter, predict and detect illegal immigration along the 6,000-mile borders; identify the entrants; classify threat levels; track movements; and help border officials to effectively and efficiently respond to illegal entries and bring interdictions to a resolution.

DHS hoped to avoid the management problems plagued by the previous initiatives by having SBInet managed by a single private contractor; however, Boeing subcontracted many aspects of the design, development, implementation and maintenance of the program to other companies, including Centech Group, DRS Technologies, Kollsman, L-3 Communications, LGS, Perot Systems, Unisys Global Public Sector, USIS and EOD Technology.

A False Start

The first phase of the project—a 28-mile section at the Arizona-Mexico border estimated at $67 million— was supposed to be operational by June 2007, but was delayed until December 2007. The system was officially accepted by DHS in February 2008. That same month, the Government Accountability Office reported that the system suffered from slow radar transmissions, faulty analytics resulting in false alarms from rain and other weather patterns, and poor camera resolutions.

The Unfulfilled Goal

The completed initiative, estimated to cost between $2 and $8 billion, called for 1,800 towers to be set up along the borders, which would have included radar, long-range cameras, broadband wireless access points, thermal imaging capabilities and motion detectors. The data would have fed into a command center and appeared on a geospatial map for real-time monitoring, allowing personnel to view an entry, assess the threat remotely and dispatch border patrol agents as needed. Border patrol agents also would have carried PDAs with GPS capabilities and fingerprint identification technology, to allow the command center to track their location and identify an individual at the interdiction site. The PDAs also would have had the ability to view and control tower cameras. In addition, border patrol cars would have been equipped with laptops to provide agents with necessary information prior to approaching a threat.

Finally, airborne sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles would have monitored remote areas where towers were impractical.

Enough is Enough

After numerous technical problems—such as malfunctioning equipment, software problems and dissention regarding the placement of equipment—led to numerous missed deadlines, Napolitano decided to shut down the failing system.

"Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost-effective way possible," Napolitano said. "The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet Block 1 to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements. Additionally, we are freezing all SBInet funding beyond SBInet Block 1's initial deployment to the Tucson and Ajo regions until the assessment I ordered in January is completed."

Boeing also released a statement saying the company is "fully committed to delivering bordersecurity technology that successfully assists" federal authorities.

With the failure of yet another border security initiative, finding a comprehensive, operational solution for border security continues to elude our grasp.


  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Busy South Africa Building Integrates Custom Access Control System

    Nicol Corner, based in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, South Africa, is home to a six-star fitness club, prime office space, and an award-winning rooftop restaurant. This is the first building in South Africa to have its glass façade fully incorporate fritted glazing, saving 35% on energy consumption. Nicol Corner (Pty) LTD has developed a landmark with sophisticated design and unique architecture by collaborating with industry-leading partners and specifying world-class equipment throughout the project. This includes installing a high-spec, bespoke security and access control system. Read Now

  • Only 13 Percent of Research Institutions Are Prepared for AI

    A new survey commissioned by SHI International and Dell Technologies underscores the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) while exposing significant gaps in preparedness at many research institutions. Read Now

  • Survey: 70 Percent of Organizations Have Established Dedicated SaaS Security Teams

    Seventy percent of organizations have prioritized investment in SaaS security, establishing dedicated SaaS security teams, despite economic uncertainty and workforce reductions. This was a key finding in the fourth Annual SaaS Security Survey Report: 2025 CISO Plans and Priorities released today by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining standards, certifications, and best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity


New Products

  • Luma x20

    Luma x20

    Snap One has announced its popular Luma x20 family of surveillance products now offers even greater security and privacy for home and business owners across the globe by giving them full control over integrators’ system access to view live and recorded video. According to Snap One Product Manager Derek Webb, the new “customer handoff” feature provides enhanced user control after initial installation, allowing the owners to have total privacy while also making it easy to reinstate integrator access when maintenance or assistance is required. This new feature is now available to all Luma x20 users globally. “The Luma x20 family of surveillance solutions provides excellent image and audio capture, and with the new customer handoff feature, it now offers absolute privacy for camera feeds and recordings,” Webb said. “With notifications and integrator access controlled through the powerful OvrC remote system management platform, it’s easy for integrators to give their clients full control of their footage and then to get temporary access from the client for any troubleshooting needs.” 3

  • Mobile Safe Shield

    Mobile Safe Shield

    SafeWood Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of patented bullet resistant products, is excited to announce the launch of the Mobile Safe Shield. The Mobile Safe Shield is a moveable bullet resistant shield that provides protection in the event of an assailant and supplies cover in the event of an active shooter. With a heavy-duty steel frame, quality castor wheels, and bullet resistant core, the Mobile Safe Shield is a perfect addition to any guard station, security desks, courthouses, police stations, schools, office spaces and more. The Mobile Safe Shield is incredibly customizable. Bullet resistant materials are available in UL 752 Levels 1 through 8 and include glass, white board, tack board, veneer, and plastic laminate. Flexibility in bullet resistant materials allows for the Mobile Safe Shield to blend more with current interior décor for a seamless design aesthetic. Optional custom paint colors are also available for the steel frame. 3

  • Compact IP Video Intercom

    Viking’s X-205 Series of intercoms provide HD IP video and two-way voice communication - all wrapped up in an attractive compact chassis. 3