recommended reading

DHS Wants More Virtual Fence Funding

A prototype of a tower for a virtual fence along the U.S.-Mexico border at a test facility in Playas, N.M.

A prototype of a tower for a virtual fence along the U.S.-Mexico border at a test facility in Playas, N.M. // U.S. Customs and Border Protection/AP

Spending on border control equipment and surveillance would rise by $11 million, under President Obama's 2015 budget request, with the administration set to break ground on up to 50 surveillance towers in Arizona. 

Customs and Border Protection on Feb. 26 signed contractor EFW, Inc. on to the project, which could cost as much as $145 million.  The plan is to stand up a series of stationery towers and command and control center technology that can discern suspicious activity along the Arizona-Mexico border.  

With existing funds from the Homeland Security Department's Border Security Fencing Infrastructure and Technology account, CBP expected to initially purchase about 25 towers, officials said last fall.

On Tuesday, a DHS official told Nextgov the agency will erect seven towers, with the option to buy more after the initial deployment, for a total of up to roughly 50 towers.

In the budget released earlier in the day, Obama asks that lawmakers increase the size of the $351 million account to $362 million. 

Congress has blocked the administration from using any new money for more tower technology until the agency certifies that the first installation "meets the operational requirements" of the Border Patrol. Obama's budget references this restriction, which was included in a fiscal 2014 spending bill.

The contract inked last month lasts eight and a half years, or until 2022. 

An earlier shot at erecting a virtual fence lost steam, when technologies that were available at the time could not satisfy what DHS officials now admit were arbitrary prerequisites. Those specifications included ubiquitous radars, even in densely populated areas, and detection of 70 percent of incursions within a given coverage area. In 2011, Homeland Security abandoned the Secure Border Initiative network, or SBINet, after investing $1 billion. 

Functioning SBInet towers in Tucson and Ajo still exist.

On Monday, after a snowstorm shut down federal offices, the House Homeland Security Committee postponed a hearing on the Arizona technology plan scheduled for Tuesday. 

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., chairman of the Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, said in a statement on Feb. 28, that SBINet “was plagued with procurement and technological problems.” CBP and Government Accountability Office officials were slated to testify at the hearing.

"I am interested in hearing about the lessons learned from previous failures and how, going forward, we can ensure taxpayer dollars provide tangible, measurable results when it comes to securing our border," Miller said. 

This story has been updated with comment.

Get the Nextgov iPhone app to keep up with government technology news.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.