Amid concerns about its effectiveness and multibillion-dollar cost, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has canceled plans to install an automated technology that was meant to speed the 24-hour operations of BioWatch, the national system for detecting a biological attack, reports the Los Angeles Times. Homeland Security officials earlier had told companies interested in supplying the technology that it would spend $3.1 billion for it during the first five years of operation. The BioWatch program has cost taxpayers more than $1.1 billion.
A Homeland Security spokesman, S.Y. Lee, said the cancellation reflected a commitment to “cost-effective acquisition without compromising our security.” Secretary Jeh Johnson’s decision to cancel the technology marks a reversal of policy. For most of a decade, officials from both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations have told Congress that Generation 3, described as a “lab in a box” that could sift air for viruses, germs and other biological threats and relay findings electronically, was worth the investment. The Times has reported numerous deficiencies with BioWatch. The newspaper also pointed out shortcomings with the new technology’s durability and reliability.