Stumping for President Bush’s ill-fated immigration overhaul in 2006, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff vowed that his department would wrest “operational control” of the nation’s borders away from human and drug traffickers within five years, says the Washington Post Two years later, the legislative overhaul has been shelved, development of a “virtual fence” has been delayed, and its designers are going back to the drawing board. Completion of its first phase has been put off until as late as 2011. Internal and external watchdogs, who warned of unrealistically tight deadlines, vague direction to contractors, harsh operating conditions, and tough requirements of Border Patrol end-users.
Former officials, private-sector partners, and independent analysts say the evolving 208,000-worker, $38 billion Homeland Security agency remains hindered by a crisis-of-the-moment environment, in which the rush to fulfill each new mandate or meet every threat undermines its ability to hold a strategic course and deliver promised results. Among many high-profile projects that have gone astray, DHS has struggled to field next-generation explosive-detection “puffer devices” at airports and has projected it could take $22 billion and 16 more years to deploy advanced baggage-screening systems in airports. It scaled back and indefinitely delayed the “exit” half of a $10 billion, biometric entry-exit system to track foreign visitors, citing technological and cost problems. Homeland Security also faces a congressional mandate after the Dubai Ports World controversy to scan all U.S.-bound shipping containers overseas, while problems have hampered a $1.2 billion effort to field highly effective nuclear detection devices.