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January 14th, 2011
11:59 PM ET

Homeland Security chief cancels costly virtual border fence

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday canceled the controversial virtual fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, citing technical problems, cost overruns and schedule delays since its inception in 2005.

The Secure Border Initiative-network, a high-tech surveillance system to reduce border smuggling, so far has cost taxpayers almost $1 billion for two regions in Arizona, covering 53 miles overall on the 2,000-mile border, according to a Homeland Security report.

Napolitano announced "a new path forward for security technology" along the border that is tailored to the needs of each region and provides "faster deployment of technology, better coverage and a more effective balance between cost and capability," she said in a prepared statement.

"There is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution to meet our border technology needs," Napolitano said about her decision to end the problem-plagued virtual fence.

Her new plan would use mobile surveillance systems, drones, thermal imaging devices and tower-based remote video surveillance, she said.

"Where appropriate, this plan will also incorporate already existing elements of the former SBInet program that have proven successful, such as stationary radar and infrared and optical sensor towers," Napolitano said.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Patrick

    Was this Fence started with Virtual Money?Oh my bad taxpayers money. Who ever started this project from J.W Administration they ought to continue building but with the monies from their retirement income not us taxpayers!!

    January 15, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  2. adam dickinson

    Hey Mr. Anderson I like your show but I would like it more if you came up with ideas to go along with your stories to make that problem better like a final word. So heres my final word, for the boarder we should elongate that man made canal along the boarder. You know the dike I'm talking about it was on 60 minutes. Like the Erie canal for new york it would do great things for the boarder.

    January 15, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  3. Dave Petch

    It's probable that the fence project is just prototype development. I've worked for companies that have spent a 1 billion making a new pen. How much more difficult is to accurately spit ink onto a piece of paper than it is to capture live video along a 53 mile border and then process that data into an a real time response. The thought that were being ripped off by contractors makes me believe you don’t understand the complexities of these contracts. The military is famous for setting expectations that perfect execution is improbable.
    Implementing a complicated human movement monitoring systems to keep people from moving across borders without stepping on our civil liberties is a very expense endeavor.
    Let’s just do away with the borders.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  4. Len Mottus, Vancouver, Canada

    The problem with border security is also a problem in Canada. We do keep informed of the problems with the "virtual fence" on the Mexican border, but also are concerned about a "fence" on the Canadian borber. However, the USA should be advised that the problem in Canada is not viewed as an issue with Canadian trying to get into the USA, but rather the opposite. What Canada has to do is build a fence that keeps Americans from escaping into Canada. If such a fence is built, send the bill to Canada.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm |