Government Report Claims Success with Secure Border Intiative
by Jim Kouri
In November 2005, the Department of Homeland Security established the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a multiyear, multibillion-dollar program to secure US borders.
One element of SBI is the US Customs and Border Protection's SBI program, which is responsible for developing a comprehensive border protection system through a mix of security infrastructure (e.g., fencing) and surveillance and communication technologies (e.g., radar, sensors, CCTV cameras, and satellite phones).
On February 22, 2008, DHS announced final acceptance of Project 28, a $20.6 million project to secure 28 miles along the southwest border, and is now gathering lessons learned to use in future technology development.
The scope of the project, as described in the task order DHS issued to Boeing -- the prime contractor DHS selected to acquire, deploy, and sustain systems of technology across the US borders -- was to provide a system with the capabilities required to control 28 miles of border in Arizona. CBP officials responsible for the program said that although Project 28 will not be replicated, they have learned lessons from their experience that they plan to integrate into future technology development.
CBP has extended its timeline and approach for future projects and does not expect all of the first phase of its next technology project to be completed before the end of calendar year 2011. Border Patrol agents began using Project 28 technologies in December 2007, and as of January 2008, 312 agents in the area had received updated training.
According to Border Patrol agents, while Project 28 is not an optimal system to support their operations, it has provided greater technological capabilities than did their previous equipment. Not all of the Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector have been trained on Project 28 because the system will be replaced with newer technologies.
Deployment of fencing along the southwest border is on schedule, but meeting CBP's goal to have 370 miles of pedestrian fence and 300 miles of vehicle fence in place by December 31, 2008, will be challenging and total costs are not yet known.
As of February 21, 2008, the SBI program office reported that it had constructed 168 miles of pedestrian fence and 135 miles of vehicle fence. CBP officials reported that meeting deadlines has been difficult because of various factors including difficulties in acquiring rights to border lands. Moreover, CBP officials are unable to estimate the total cost of pedestrian and vehicle fencing because they do not yet know the type of terrain where the fencing is to be constructed, the materials to be used, and the cost to acquire the land.
As CBP moves forward with construction, it is making modifications based on lessons learned from previous efforts. For example, CBP plans to buy construction items, such as steel, in bulk; use approved fence designs; and contract out the maintenance and repair. CBP's SBI program office established a staffing goal of 470 employees for fiscal year 2008, made progress toward meeting this goal and published its plan in December 2007; however, it is in the early stages of implementing the plan.
As of February 1, 2008, the office reported having a total of 305 employees. SBI program officials said that they believe they will be able to meet their staffing goal of 470 staff by the end of the fiscal year. In December 2007, the SBI office published the first version of its Strategic Human Capital Management Plan and is now in the early implementation phase. The plan outlines seven main goals for the office and activities to accomplish those goals, which align with federal government best practices.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.