Cancellation of SBI on FOX News

By Janice Kephart on January 19, 2011

Late Friday night, with information only briefed to a few key figures on Capitol Hill and the littlest fanfare possible, the Obama administration deleted more security from our southwest border by canceling the Security Border Initiative (SBI), commonly referred to as the "virtual fence". Relying on year old information from a faulty prototype developed by SBI's contractor, Boeing, the administration dissed SBI stating that it is fails to support a "one size fits all" border security measure. SBI was never developed to be a one size fits all anything, but rather the eyes of the Border Patrol, enabling them to use a control room to see the all the landscape they patrol in one place, the illegal activity on it, and decide when and how to interdict that activity. Known as "situational awareness", SBI for the past year was providing just that with Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector reduced from 24 in the field at a time, to four with eighty percent of the covered area covered by a combination of towers, sensors, radars and other devices. The smugglers lost alot of loads early last year, and then the traffic stopped. Why? SBI worked!

Perhaps most important to the agents still reeling from the death of their fellow office Brian Terry in Peak Canyon, Arizona, a few weeks ago-- just east of where SBI existed-- was the unprecedented officer safety that SBI provided. Officers were no longer coming up on smugglers alone or in dangerous places not knowing how big the groups were or whether they were carrying guns or drugs. They knew ahead of time, and planned for each interdiction in areas they could achieve the most success.

The Border Patrol loved SBI-- but none of them were allowed to show it or talk about it. I spoke to one extremely senior federal law enforcement agent very familiar with SBI about a week ago, before it was cancelled. He could not have raved about SBI more. I spoke to the one person who had been allowed to see it, Nelson Balido, President of the Border Trade Alliance at length before it was cancelled. He raved about it. But now the Border Patrol is going just about back to square one, as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano (who never saw SBI at work), hasn't said a peep about providing some other means of "situational awareness" to the men and women of the Border Patrol.

Was SBI expensive? Yes. Had the contractor made right and now had deployable technology for areas of the border where SBI would be appropriate-- areas most trampled today by alien smugglers and drug cartels? Yes. Was anyone allowed to tell that story? No.

So what, exactly, is this administration doing? Insecuring our borders, it seems.