Federal auditors say the effort to secure the Mexican border with technology and fences has fallen years behind schedule, will cost billions of dollars extra in maintenance costs, and has no clear means of gauging whether illegal crossings have been curtailed, the New York Times reports. Mark Borkowski, who directs the Homeland Security Department’s Secure Border Initiative, stood by the program as “transformational,” but did not challenge the findings. “We are as frustrated as anybody is” with the setbacks, he said.
The Congressional Government Accountability Office said the U.S. had fallen about seven years behind its goal of putting in place the technology the Bush administration had heavily promoted when it announced the Secure Border Initiative in 2005. In 2006, the report said, the department estimated it would have a system of cameras, radars and sensors in place to aid a force of border guards by the end of 2009, but the completion date is now projected as 2016. “Flaws found in testing and concerns about the impact of placing towers and access roads in environmentally sensitive locations caused delays,” said Richard Stana, an author of the report. The cameras and radars, a “virtual fence” in a system designed by contractor Boeing have been hampered by weather and mechanical problems.