Secretary Napolitano just announced that she would be halting SBInet until she could complete her review of the program. SBInet- inaccurately nicknamed the ‘virtual fence’ is actually a system of cameras and sensors at the border to help border patrol agents catch illegal border-crossers. Thus far, the program has been initially deployed at two areas along the border, but Napolitano’s decision would halt future funding until the completion of her program assessment.
Undoubtedly- taxpayers demand that dollars are spent wisely—and Congress as well as DHS have every responsibility to make sure this is occurring. There is no doubt that SBInet has experienced delays in implementation. But the need for this type of technology is so very apparent at the southern border as drugs, people and guns flow across it and violence increases just over the Rio Grande. As Heritage’s James Carafano pointed out “earlier this month the Texas Department of Public Safety urged ‘spring breakers’ to avoid border towns,“ and the State Department has shut down its consular office in Reynosa because “gun battles in that border town were just too commonplace.”
The fence is done, and the appropriate manpower has been hired. This means that now is the time for technology to finish the process of securing the border and fighting back against this violence. This begs the need for the deployment of technologies that can ensure that border agents are in “the right place, at the right time to thwart creative, innovative, and adaptive criminals.” Secretary Napolitano needs to determine quickly how to get the program moving forward as SBInet can play a key role in this process. This assessment should look at inefficiencies but it should also include an assessment of challenges facing SBInet implementation—like environmental impediments that are certain to slow the progress but that need to be addressed by DHS and Congress, not the private sector.
There is nothing wrong with adequate oversight, but Washington can’t stop border progress in the meantime.