Thursday, September 17, 2009

Homeland Security SBInet Construction Critiqued As Wasteful, Ineffective

A just released report by the GAO concludes that spending by the Department of Homeland Security on construction of border fencing, guard posts and surveillance facilities, under stimulus appropriations and under the Department's Secure Borders Initiative, dubbed SBInet, is both wasteful and probably ineffective in keeping illegals from crossing into the country. The report points out border fencing construction so far has cost $2.4 billion, remains incomplete, will likely cost an additional $6.5 billion to maintain for the next 20 years, and cannot be shown to have reduced illegal border crossings.

The cost of building traditional border fencing in the Southwestern desert has increased from $4 million per mile to $6.5 million per mile since 2005, mostly due to increased costs of land acquisition for fence lines, patrol posts and surveillance camera towers. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota has questioned allocation by Homeland Security of $128 million to build upgrades at little used checkpoints along the Canadian border in his state, leading Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to put a hold on those projects pending a review of how the construction sites were selected under stimulus appropriations. House Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Loretta Sanchez said at a Congressional hearing today that "I am particularly concerned by the SBInet program's ongoing struggle with transparency and the pattern of delaying planned deployments." Speaking about Chicago based Boeing's $1.1 billion, three year contract to build SBInet, Sanchez added, "As a member of Congress who is very concerned about fiscal responsibility, it is hard for me to believe that DHS would award a contract of $1.1 billion over three years and continue to award task orders without viable results."

Even the DHS cash saving efforts under the SBInet program have gone awry. DHS used bulk steel purchases for the border barrier construction in an effort to save funds, but delays in the actual erection of the prepurchased steel have produced increases in steel storage costs which ate up most of the bulk purchase savings. Is there no critical path schedule for this work?
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