boeing and the border: sbinet

according to fedspending.org, boeing was awarded a $20 million contract in 2007 in district 7 in arizona, along the mexican border, for implementation of SBInet. an additional $114 million was awarded to district 2, a congressional district bordering california, under SBInet and the Goldwater Test Range.

 total contract awarded to boeing for SBInet fy2007: $219,945,089

 

List of Individual Transactions for FY 2007

You can click on the column headers below to re-sort the search.

Amount Parent Company Name Major Agency Product or Service Date
$113,702,982 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2007-06-15
$69,013,266 *BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Research and development 2007-08-01
$20,000,000 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2006-10-20
$8,000,000 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2007-01-12
$6,930,128 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2007-02-20
$1,633,248 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2007-06-13
$665,465 BOEING CO. Dept. of Homeland Security Automatic data processing and telecom. services 2007-04-06

*note that the R&D contract was NO BID, and this is the one we generally hear about quoted with regards to SBInet. There are a few other contracts listed with a value of  $0, some reported for fy2008. with boeing’s record of underquoting prices, however, it is expected that they will be granted even more contracts for the completion of this project.

 

from wikipedia:

SBInet is controlled by an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract extending through September 30, 2009, with three one-year option periods. The only commitment that DHS has currently made is to pay Project 28, a 28-mile pilot section of SBInet in the Tucson sector of the Arizona-Mexico border. The cost of this pilot section is estimated at $67 million. The value of Boeing’s three-year contract to build SBInet across both the northern and southern borders is estimated by various sources at various times to be between $2 billion and $8 billion.

 

boeing.com description of SBInet

The Secure Border Initiative (SBI) is a comprehensive plan by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to gain operational control of the U.S. borders through the integration of increased staffing, interior enforcement, detection technology and infrastructure, and coordination on federal, state, local and international levels.

A critical component of SBI is SBInet, a program focused on transforming border control through technology and infrastructure. SBInet will provide frontline personnel advantages in securing the nation’s land borders through the most effective integration of current and next generation technology, infrastructure, staffing and response platforms.

The SBInet solution will be managed and executed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, and will be deployed using a homeland security threat-based approach.

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The Approach, Strategy and Deployment of SBInet

Approach

Boeing is leveraging the expertise and capabilities of our teammates to provide a system of systems, best value and low-risk solution to DHS and CBP. The Boeing SBInet team offers the combined experience in deploying large-scale systems integration efforts as well as in security, border security, surveillance systems and other areas that enable the team to understand the needs and challenges of CBP and the Border Patrol to deliver the right SBInet solution.

Strategy

Our strategy focuses on providing CBP and the Border Patrol with detailed Situational Awareness through our Common Operating Picture to give every field agent the advantage of real-time, integrated information about illegal crossing activity and operations by Border Patrol and other supporting law enforcement agencies.

Our team will deploy the appropriate mix and amount of systems along border areas that are between points of entry to detect those approaching the border. Border enforcement areas are divided into sectors, each with a local command center. The Boeing team’s system will detect, monitor and classify potential and actual crossers. At that point, the system will enable sector command centers to dispatch the right agents and resources to respond to the scene.

Deployment

Our team will deploy the following hardware and software systems:

  • Ground-based and tower-mounted sensors, cameras and radars
  • Fixed and mobile telecommunications systems
  • Ground-penetrating detecting systems
  • Command and control center equipment
  • Information database and intelligence analysis systems

 

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/134514/suckers_for_punishment:_dhs_hires_boeing_(again)_to_build_surveillance_towers_on_u.s.-canada_border/

Suckers For Punishment: DHS Hires Boeing (Again) to Build Surveillance Towers On U.S.-Canada Border

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 8:32 AM on April 1, 2009.

Boeing, of course, is the same company that wasted tens of millions of dollars on a yet-to-be-completed “virtual fence” on the U.S.-Mexico border.
So, remember the “virtual fence” being built along the U.S. Mexico border? The one George W. Bush bragged would be “the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history”? If memory serves, it quickly became an embarrassing failure for the Department of Homeland Security — a 28-mile blunder and a financial boon for Boeing, which was paid tens of millions of dollars for to complete the project.

Of course, the “virtual fence” is far from completion — Gregory Giddens, then-head of the DHS Secure Border Initiative, estimated last year that it would be finished some time in 2011. But now there’s a new director in town, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Mark Borkowski, who told the Arizona Daily Star earlier this year that he is “not committed one way or another” on continuing Boeing’s contract to finish it. “We are going to be doing some analysis this year of what are the right priorities for this program,” he said. “Those analyses will advise what we do in terms of future contracts and whether or not we use Boeing.”

That was February. Now, it appears there’s a whole new “virtual fence” in the works. Never mind that messy border web to the south; “The U.S. Border Patrol is erecting 16 more video surveillance towers in Michigan and New York to help secure parts of the U.S.-Canadian border,” the Associated Press reports, “awarding the contract to a company criticized for faulty technology with its so-called ‘virtual fence’ along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.”

That company, of course, is Boeing, which was awarded the $20 million project to erect the towers.

Despite his earlier remarks, Borkowski told the AP that he is confident Homeland Security will not run into the same problems it had with Boeing in the past. “Boeing spokeswoman Jenna K. McMullin said the company has ‘learned quite a bit from our previous SBInet experience and demonstrated how to implement lessons learned.'”

Well, that’s reassuring.

So what are the American people getting for $20 million?

Surveillance cameras in their backyards (literally).

 

 

“Borkowski acknowledged that as cameras pan an area it might point at a private residence,” according to the AP, but “said that is not the cameras’ intended targets.” Besides,”only law enforcement officials will be operating the cameras.” (Also reassuring!)

 

 

According to the AP, “eleven of the towers are being installed in Detroit and five in Buffalo, N.Y., to help monitor water traffic between Canada and the United States along Lake St. Clair and the Niagara River” — hotbeds of illegal immigrant activity, to be sure. “The cameras will be used to zoom in on a boat that left Canada, for instance, and watch where it goes and what it does, said Mark Borkowski.”

 

 

“So the idea is to have cameras watch, and then agents are freed up to respond,” Borkowski said in an interview with The Associated Press. The cameras will cut down the agent’s response time by minutes, he said.

 

 

At the same time, “Borkowski said the additional technology on the northern border may not lead to more arrests.”

“Generally, there is not as much traffic between northern border points of entry as there is along the southern border.”

http://www.alternet.org/story/77320/?page=entire

Homeland Security Won’t Explain Why the Mexican Border Wall Bypasses the Rich and Connected

By Melissa del Bosque , Texas Observer. Posted February 19, 2008.

 

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security marches down the Texas border serving condemnation lawsuits to frightened landowners, Brownsville resident Eloisa Tamez, 72, has one simple question. She would like to know why her land is being targeted for destruction by a border wall, while a nearby golf course and resort remain untouched.

Tamez, a nursing director at the University of Texas at Brownsville, is one of the last of the Spanish land grant heirs in Cameron County. Her ancestors once owned 12,000 acres. In the 1930s, the federal government took more than half of her inherited land, without paying a cent, to build flood levees.

Now Homeland Security wants to put an 18-foot steel and concrete wall through what remains.

While the border wall will go through her backyard and effectively destroy her home, it will stop at the edge of the River Bend Resort and golf course, a popular Winter Texan retreat two miles down the road. The wall starts up again on the other side of the resort.

“It has a golf course and all of the amenities,” Tamez says. “There are no plans to build a wall there. If the wall is so important for security, then why are we skipping parts?”

Along the border, preliminary plans for fencing seem to target landowners of modest means and cities and public institutions such as the University of Texas at Brownsville, which rely on the federal government to pay their bills.

A visit to the River Bend Resort in late January reveals row after row of RVs and trailers with license plates from chilly northern U.S. states and Canadian provinces. At the edge of a lush, green golf course, a Winter Texan from Canada enjoys the mild, South Texas winter and the landscaped ponds, where white egrets pause to contemplate golf carts whizzing past. The woman, who declines to give her name, recounts that illegal immigrants had crossed the golf course once while she was teeing off. They were promptly detained by Border Patrol agents, she says, adding that agents often park their SUVs at the edge of the golf course.

River Bend Resort is owned by John Allburg, who incorporated the business in 1983 as River Bend Resort, Inc. Allburg refused to comment for this article. A scan of the Federal Election Commission and Texas Ethics Commission databases did not find any political contributions linked to Allburg.

Just 69 miles north, Daniel Garza, 76, faces a similar situation with a neighbor who has political connections that reach the White House. In the small town of Granjeno, population 313, Garza points to a field across the street where a segment of the proposed 18-foot high border wall would abruptly end after passing through his brick home and a small, yellow house he gave his son. “All that land over there is owned by the Hunts,” he says, waving a hand toward the horizon. “The wall doesn’t go there.”

In this area everyone knows the Hunts. Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt and his relatives are one of the wealthiest oil and gas dynasties in the world. Hunt, a close friend of President George W. Bush, recently donated $35 million to Southern Methodist University to help build Bush’s presidential library. In 2001, Bush made him a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, where Hunt received a security clearance and access to classified intelligence.

Over the years, Hunt has transformed his 6,000-acre property, called the Sharyland Plantation, from acres of onions and vegetables into swathes of exclusive, gated communities where houses sell from $650,000 to $1 million and residents enjoy golf courses, elementary schools, and a sports park. The plantation contains an 1,800-acre business park and Sharyland Utilities, run by Hunt’s son Hunter, which delivers electricity to plantation residents and Mexican factories.

The development’s Web site touts its proximity to the international border and the new Anzalduas International Bridge now under construction, built on land Hunt donated. Hunt has also formed Hunt Mexico with a wealthy Mexican business partner to develop both sides of the border into a lucrative trade corridor the size of Manhattan.

Jeanne Phillips, a spokesperson for Hunt Consolidated Inc., says that since the company is private, it doesn’t have to identify the Mexican partner. Phillips says, however, that no one from the company has been directly involved in siting the fence. “We, like other citizens in the Valley, have waited for the federal government to designate the location of the wall,” she says.

Garza stands in front of his modest brick home, which he built for his retirement after 50 years as a migrant farmworker. For the past five months, he has stayed awake nights trying to find a way to stop the gears of bureaucracy from grinding over his home.

A February 8 announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the agency would settle for building the fence atop the levee behind Garza’s house instead of through it, which has given Garza some hope. Like Tamez, he wonders why his home and small town were targeted by Homeland Security in the first place.

“I don’t see why they have to destroy my home, my land, and let the wall end there.” He points across the street to Hunt’s land. “How will that stop illegal immigration?”

Most border residents couldn’t believe the fence would ever be built through their homes and communities. They expected it to run along the banks of the Rio Grande, not north of the flood levees — in some cases like Tamez’s, as far as a mile north of the river. So it came as a shock last summer when residents were approached by uniformed Border Patrol agents. They asked people to sign waivers allowing Homeland Security to survey their properties for construction of the wall. When they declined, Homeland Security filed condemnation suits.

In time, local landowners realized that the fence’s location had everything to do with politics and private profit, and nothing to do with stopping illegal immigration.

In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, authored by Republican Congressman Peter King from New York. The legislation mandated that 700 miles of double-fencing be built along the southern border from California to Texas. The bill detailed where the fencing, or, as many people along the border call it, “the wall,” would be built. After a year of inflamed rhetoric about the plague of illegal immigration and Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the bill passed with overwhelming support from Republicans and a few Democrats. All the Texas border members of the U.S. House of Representatives, except San Antonio Republican Henry Bonilla, voted against it. Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted for the bill.

On August 10, 2007, Chertoff announced his agency would scale back the initial 700 miles of fencing to 370 miles, to be built in segments across the southern border. Chertoff cited budget shortages and technological difficulties as justifications for not complying with the bill.

How did his agency decide where to build the segments? Chad Foster, the mayor of Eagle Pass, says he thought it was a simple enough question and that the answer would be based on data and facts. Foster chairs the Texas Border Coalition. TBC, as Foster calls it, is a group of border mayors and business leaders who have repeatedly traveled to Washington for the past 18 months to try to get federal officials to listen to them.

Foster says he has never received any logical answers from Homeland Security as to why certain areas in his city had been targeted for fencing over other areas. “I puzzled a while over why the fence would bypass the industrial park and go through the city park,” he says.

Despite terse meetings with Chertoff, Foster and other coalition members say the conversation has been one-sided.

“I think we have a government within a government,” Foster says. “[This is] a tremendous bureaucracy — DHS is just a monster.”

The Observer called Homeland Security in Washington to find out how it had decided where to build the fence. The voice mail system sputtered through a dizzying array of acronyms: DOJ, USACE, CBP, and USCIS. On the second call a media spokesperson with a weary voice directed queries to Michael Friel, the fence spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. Six calls and two e-mails later, Friel responded with a curt e-mail: “Got your message. Working on answers…” it said. Days passed, and Friel’s answers never came.

Since Homeland Security wasn’t providing answers, perhaps Congress would. Phone conversations with congressional offices ranged from “but they aren’t even building a wall” to “I don’t know. That’s a good question.” At the sixth congressional office contacted, a GOP staffer who asked not to be identified, but who is familiar with the fence, says the fencing locations stemmed from statistics showing high apprehension and narcotic seizure rates. This seems questionable, since maps released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed the wall going through such properties as the University of Texas at Brownsville — hardly a hotbed for drug smugglers and immigrant trafficking.

Questioned more about where the data came from, the staffer said she would enquire further. The next day she called back. “The border fence is being handled by Greg Giddens at the Secure Border Initiative Office within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office,” she said.

Giddens is executive director of the SBI, as it is called, which is in charge of SBInet, a consortium of private contractors led by Boeing Co. The group received a multibillion dollar contract in 2006 to secure the northern and southern borders with a network of vehicle barriers, fencing, and surveillance systems. Companies Boeing chose to secure the southern border from terrorists include DRS Technologies Inc., Kollsman Inc., L-3 Communications Inc., Perot Systems Corp., and a unit of Unisys Corp.

A February 2007 audit by the U.S. Government Accountability Office cited Homeland Security and the SBInet project for poor fiscal oversight and a lack of demonstrable objectives. The GAO audit team recommended that Homeland Security place a spending limit on the Boeing contract for SBInet since the company had been awarded an “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for 3 years with three 1-year options.”

The agency rejected the auditors’ recommendation, saying 6,000 miles of border is limitation enough.

In a February 2007 hearing, Congressman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had more scathing remarks for Giddens and the SBInet project. “As of December, the Department of Homeland Security had hired a staff of 98 to oversee the new SBInet contract. This may seem like progress until you ask who these overseers are. More than half are private contractors. Some of these private contractors even work for companies that are business partners of Boeing, the company they are supposed to be overseeing. And from what we are now learning from the department, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Waxman said of SBInet that “virtually every detail is being outsourced from the government to private contractors. The government is relying on private contractors to design the programs, build them, and even conduct oversight over them.”

A phone call to Giddens at SBI is referred to Loren Flossman, who’s in charge of tactical infrastructure for the office. Flossman says all data regarding the placement of the fence is classified because “you don’t want to tell the very people you’re trying to keep from coming across the methodology used to deter them.”

Flossman also calls the University of Texas at Brownsville campus a problem area for illegal immigration. “I wouldn’t assume that these are folks that aren’t intelligent enough that if they dress a certain way, they’re gonna fit in,” he says.

Chief John Cardoza, head of the UT-Brownsville police, says the Border Patrol would have to advise his police force of any immigrant smuggling or narcotic seizures that happen on campus. “If it’s happening on my campus, I’m not being told about it,” he says. Cardoza says he has never come across illegal immigrants dressed as students.

Flossman goes on to say that Boeing isn’t building the fence, but is providing steel for it. Eric Mazzacone, a spokesman for Boeing, refers the Observer to Michael Friel at Customs and Border Protection, and intercedes to get him on the phone. Friel confirms that Boeing has just finished building a 30-mile stretch of fence in Arizona, but insists other questions be submitted in writing.

Boeing, a multibillion dollar aero-defense company, is the second-largest defense contractor in the nation. The company has powerful board members, such as William M. Daley, former U.S. secretary of commerce; retired Gen. James L. Jones, former supreme allied commander in Europe; and Kenneth M. Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff. The corporation is also one of the biggest political contributors in Washington, giving more than $9 million to Democratic and Republican members of Congress in the last decade. In 2006, the year the Secure Fence Act was passed, Boeing gave more than $1.4 million to Democrats and Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A majority of this money has gone to legislators such as Congressman Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who championed the Secure Fence Act. In 2006, Hunter received at least $10,000 from Boeing and more than $93,000 from defense companies bidding for the SBInet contract, according to the center. During his failed bid this year for the White House, Hunter made illegal immigration and building a border fence the major themes of his campaign.

In early February 2008, Chertoff asked Congress for $12 billion for border security. He included $775 million for the SBInet program, despite the fact that congressional leaders still can’t get straight answers from Homeland Security about the program. As recently as January 31, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members sent a letter to Chertoff asking for “greater clarity on [the Customs and Border Protection office’s] operational objectives for SBInet and the projected milestones and anticipated costs for the project.” They have yet to receive a response.

Boeing continues to hire companies for the SBInet project. And the congressional districts of backers of the border fence continue to benefit. A recent Long Island Business News article trumpeted the success of Telephonics Corp., a local business, in Congressman King’s congressional district that won a $14.5 million bid to provide a mobile surveillance system under SBInet to protect the southern border.

While Garza and Tamez wait for answers, they say they are being asked to sacrifice something that can’t be replaced by money. They are giving up their land, their homes, their heritage, and the few remaining acres left to them that they hoped to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

“I am an old man. I have colon cancer, and I am 76 years old,” Garza says, resting against a tree in front of his home. “All I do is worry about whether they will take my home. My wife keeps asking me, ‘What are we going to do?'”

Besides these personal tragedies, Eagle Pass Mayor Foster says there is another tragedy in store for the American taxpayer. A 2007 congressional report estimates the cost of maintaining and building the fence could be as much as $49 billion over its expected 25-year life span.

“They are just going to push this problem on the next administration, and nobody is going to talk about immigration reform, and that’s the illness,” Foster says. “The wall is a Band-Aid on the problem. And to blow $49 billion and not walk away with a secure border — that’s a travesty.”

 

http://www.alternet.org/environment/81154/bush_policy:_quick_border_fence_trumps_the_environment/?page=entire

Bush Policy: Quick Border Fence Trumps the Environment

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted April 3, 2008.

Fear not, America: the Bush administration is not giving up on its immigrant-blocking border fence.

On Tuesday, it declared that it’s going to ignore some 30 environmental laws and regulations in order to accelerate its project to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued the order, with an ominous warning. “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation,” he said. Cutting through the legal red tape “will enable important security projects to keep moving forward.”

Like fear-mongering, flouting the law is part of the daily grind in the Bush administration — but in this case, Chertoff is doing nothing illegal. The power to waive the law in the name of national security was granted to him specifically by Congress in 2005. The “REAL ID Act,” passed as a rider to an Iraq funding bill, declared that the head of the Department of Homeland Security could waive any laws standing in the way of “expeditious construction of … barriers and roads” along the border.

It was not the first time Chertoff has invoked such a waiver — DHS has used them before to push through fencing in Arizona and San Diego — but it was definitely his most sweeping order to date. It advances DHS’s proposal to erect towers and high-tech surveillance equipment along a sprawling 470-mile span of the border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Originally, such action was supposed to be a last resort, but, as Tuesday’s order demonstrates, this is hardly proving to be the case.

Aside from the troubling implications of the DHS Secretary overriding the law to push politically-motivated agendas, many critics of this measure are the same who have long argued that a border fence would have a devastating impact on the environment in border areas. Among them is the Sierra Club, which last year took DHS to federal court to try to get Chertoff’s special powers revoked. (They lost. Aside from the fact that the REAL ID law included a provision essentially insulating it from court review, in December, a federal judge found nothing unconstitutional about Chertoff’s power’s, since he can only exercise them on a case-by-case basis.) “Secretary Chertoff chose to bypass stakeholders and push through this unpopular project on April Fools’ Day,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope on Tuesday. “We don’t think the destruction of the borderlands region is a laughing matter.”

Chertoff’s response to environmentalists has been to turn around and say that, in fact, it is illegal immigration that is bad for the environment. “I’ve seen pictures of human waste, garbage, discarded bottles and other human artifact in pristine areas,” Chertoff said last fall. “And believe me, that is the worst thing you can do to the environment.”

Current controversy aside, the border “fence” is one of those harebrained schemes that might be funny if it weren’t so cynical and racist. A perennial favorite of the anti-immigrant right, the idea to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico has been afloat for decades. More recently, historic immigration levels and the post-9/11 political landscape have legitimized the project in the name of national security. Part of a broad emphasis on border control by the Bush administration, which likes to boast about its success keeping out “illegals” — under Bush, the budget for border security has more than doubled, from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $10.4 billion — the border fence was officially codified in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Passed by the House and Senate in September 2006, the Secure Fence Act mandated the construction of a barrier stretching along a 700-mile portion of the 1,969-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The measure was a bipartisan effort; with the midterm elections weeks away, many lawmakers considered it a political imperative. As Texas Republican John Cornyn put it, bluntly: “The choice we were presented was: Are we going to vote to enhance border security, or against it?” The bill passed 80 to 19 in the Senate. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted for it.

But confusion about what kind of shape the “fence” would take emerged almost immediately. “No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised,” the Washington Post reported in early October. What was supposed to be an order to build a long and towering concrete wall had quickly morphed into the White House and DHS’s desire to allocate funds for a “virtual fence,” emphasizing surveillance technology and “tactical infrastructure,” to build what Bush called “the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history.” Logistical confusion aside, on October 26, 2006, Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law.

For an administration that has so cunningly displaced government with marketing, the border fence was a PR problem from the start. Aside from the fact that it’s a costly mess of a project that has angered people across the political spectrum, on the ground in Texas, Arizona, and other states, the administration has infuriated local municipalities by systematically overriding their say in what happens in their own backyard. (In Texas, to date, it has sued 50 landowners for access to their properties.) The massive project has even underscored the country’s reliance on immigrant labor. In one rather delicious twist of irony, two months after Bush signing the Secure Fence Act, a California company called Golden State Fence Company was forced pay some $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Around the same time, a December 2006 study by the Congressional Research Service estimated that the cost of building a double steel fence — which supporters of the wall argue is necessary for it to be effective — at a whopping $49 billion, a figure that didn’t even include the high cost of acquiring hundreds of miles of private land or, for that matter, the high cost of private contractors who would likely be doing the job.

It didn’t help that the idea of a border fence had become associated with wingnuts like the Minutemen, an anti-immigrant group founded in 2004 by retired accountant Jim Gilchrist, who decided that when it came to enforcing the border, it was time for people to take matters into their own hands. Recently, infighting has dragged the down the movement — Arizona-based Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leader Chris Simcox, who once lovingly described the fence to be as “our high-tech, double-layered gauntlet of deterrent” has been accused of massive mismanagement of member donations — and last fall, CNN aired an embarrassing report on the Minutemen, partly laying out what their efforts have wrought. (The answer: A “cow” fence. And a lot of confusion.)

On the government side, the border fence project has been plagued with management and technical problems — particularly the “virtual” fence that DHS has made a priority. This past February, the Government Accountability Office released a report on “Project 28” — a surveillance initiative focusing on 28 miles of the Arizona border — concluding that the project is severely delayed. A contract to implement the project was awarded to Boeing in September 2006 to the tune of $67 million. (It has actually been paid over $85 million.) Halfway into its three-year contract, it became clear it was becoming a costly failure. At a government hearing on Feb 27, 2008, DHS officials admitted to myriad technical setbacks, including problems with Boeing’s software. Gregory Giddens, head of the DHS Secure Border Initiative, said the virtual fence will be finished some time in 2011 instead of by the end of this year.

(Meanwhile, a frustrated Michael Chertoff, who once sported a welding mask for CNN cameras to demonstrate his commitment to the border fence, jotted down angsty musings on his DHS “Leadership Blog.” “I’ve seen this system work with my own eyes, and I’ve talked with the Border Patrol Agents who are using it. They assure me that it adds value. That’s what matters to me, and it’s a fact that cannot be denied.”)

Anti-immigrant activists have been angered by such setbacks, arguing that the concrete wall has always been the way to go. As Ira Mehlman, national media director for anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform said last month: “the virtual border fence is virtually useless and an actual waste of money.”

News of Chertoff’s power grab on Tuesday should please those who want the government to stop screwing around with costly technology and build that concrete wall already. On CNN Tuesday, Lou Dobbs (whose new life mission seems to be to convince the American public that battling immigration is the most important part of the War on Drug) applauded the measure, praising Chertoff — “Good for him. This shows real resolve” — while also (rather hilariously) anticipating the protests that will follow from what he called those “snarky little chipmunks on the left.”

Despite Chertoff’s claims that the border fence can be completed by the end of 2008, its construction will more than likely extend into a new presidential administration, meaning that either Obama, Clinton or McCain will inherit the project. At this point, none will say anything of substance about how they will take it on. With immigration poised to be a major campaign issue, now would be a good time for them to recognize it for the misguided mess that it is.

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