Citing Costs, Napolitano Suspends Mexican Border “Virtual Fence”


Citing “cost overruns and missed deadlines,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to cut millions of dollars intended for a high-tech “virtual fence” along the Mexican border that has produced little more than headaches for the federal government, reports the New York Times. Napolitano said she would divert $50 million in federal stimulus money intended for the project to other technological needs on the border, including laptops, radios, thermal-imaging devices, and cameras requested by border guards.

She said no money will be spent on expanding the fence project beyond two areas in Arizona where it is being tested until the department completes a reassessment she ordered in January. The announcement came two days before a hearing in which the House Homeland Security Committee is expected to receive the latest in a string of Government Accountability Office reports calling the program into question. That new report says tests designed to evaluate the system are flawed and mismanaged. The virtual fence is part of a multiyear, multibillion-dollar effort known as the Secure Border Initiative that was announced with fanfare by the Bush administration in 2005. It promised a sophisticated system of cameras, sensors, and radar that would zero in on people crossing the border with new speed and clarity and guide agents to them.

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