NEWS

DHS Scraps — or Replaces — Virtual Fence Prototype

By Joseph Straw

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will dismantle 28 miles of towers and sensor arrays along the U.S.-Mexican border dubbed Project 28, a prototype “virtual fence” built to alert officials of illegal border crossings, according to press reports.

Last month Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators told Congress that the a $20 million system, integrated by Boeing, didn’t work adequately.

Sensors alerted too often on false targets like animals and passing brush. When illegal crossings did occur, the transgressor was often gone before the system's sensors and video cameras could acquire the suspect and direct agents to the right location.

While the context of DHS’s announcement fed the presumption that Project 28 was an outright failure, DHS and Boeing officials emphasized that it was simply a prototype, one that would soon be replaced with permanent surveillance towers bearing new, improved video cameras and sensor arrays.

Project 28 resulted in more than 3,000 apprehensions since it went operational last December, an official told the Associated Press.

The system is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s $8 billion Secure Border Initiative, called SBInet, which aims to harden the nation's border by networking  traditional barriers, vehicles, sensors and agents.

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