The House’s approval Tuesday of $600 million in border security funding appears to mark a shift away from technology in favor of more boots on the ground, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Half of the money will pay for 1,500 new border agents. Another chunk of nearly $200 million goes to the Justice Department-supported efforts of the US Marshals and other law enforcement agencies. Two surveillance drones ring up another $32 million.
In March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano froze funding for a “virtual fence” begun under President Bush in 2006. The string of towers was intended to catch illegal border-crossers using cameras, radar, and ground sensors, but it was “plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines,” Secretary Napolitano said. The program had burned through some $2.4 billion between 2005 and 2009. Another border security measure with a high price tag but not many supporters: the 600 miles of fence erected along the border since 2005. A 2009 Government Accountability Office audit found that the fence – still unfinished – had cost $2.4 billion to build, and would require another $6.5 billion to maintain over the next 20 years.