Friday, October 22, 2010

Some Unsurprising News

Remember that "virtual border" that the Bush administration promised us? The one that would use high technology to protect us from the human and drug traffickers from Mexico? Well, apparently the primary contractor on the project hasn't been able to make it work after several years and over a billion dollars later, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Department of Homeland Security, positioning itself to cut its losses on a so-called invisible fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, has decided not to exercise a one-year option for Boeing to continue work on the troubled multibillion-dollar project involving high-tech cameras, radar and vibration sensors.

The result, after an investment of more than $1 billion, may be a system with only 53 miles of unreliable coverage along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

Although it is tempting to blame Boeing for the failure so far, the government shares a whole lot of responsibility. The grandiose plans of the Bush administration called for coverage which required a technology that just hadn't been developed yet. Boeing thought it would be a slam dunk, but the project turned out to be far more difficult than they anticipated. High winds along the test section of the fence, along with the inadequate technology, resulted in the fence being able to spot tumbleweeds and vehicles, but not people. In other words, Arizona is no safer now than it was before the fence.

But given that the virtual fence has yet to pass muster even in the 53-mile test area — two sections in Arizona that officials acknowledge won't be fully operational until 2013 — and the government's lack of interest in extending Boeing's contract, most do not expect the department to invest billions more in a project that has continually disappointed.

That 53-mile test area, you will note, is still 3 years away from being operational, which would leave only about 1,947 miles to go. At that rate we would be well into the next century and who knows how many billions of dollars before completion.

It was a bad idea to begin with, and it's getting to be downright expensive. It's time to shut the project down. Maybe Congress should look into a more sane way to protect out borders and to control immigration.

Heckuva job, George.

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