Tuesday, February 5, 2008

There's nothing like a good boondoggle: Homeland Insecurity edition

It's not as good as burning money directly (to paraphrase Dmitry Orlov), but I have to hand it to the US government - building spy towers along the US/Mexico border that simply fail to work is almost a stroke of genius. When historians write about the decline of the imperial US, stories like the one below (courtesy of Brenda Norrell, who's been tracking this boondoggle for a while) are ones that should be included as textbook case studies on how to speed up that decline: make something that doesn't work, spend more money on making it not work, and continue repeating the process in the hopes that no one ever gets wise to the scam.

SBInet hits software snag By Alice Lipowicz
Published on February 5, 2008

Following testing that was supposed to be final, the Homeland Security Department has determined that it needs to develop better software and perform additional tests on the initial 28-mile segment of the SBInet border surveillance system, a department spokeswoman said.
On Dec. 10, the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency conditionally accepted from prime contractor Boeing Co. the “Project 28” initial segment of the Secure Border Initiative Network at the Arizona-Mexico border. Also on that date, agency officials said they would conduct 45 days of operational testing before final acceptance of that section.

But 57 days later, a department official has confirmed a second round of tests is being conducted ... The additional round of testing is the most recent glitch in getting the potentially $30 billion U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border surveillance system up and running. Boeing was awarded the prime contract in September 2006 and began work on the $20 million initial task order for Project 28, installing towers, cameras, sensors and communications equipment ...

On Monday, Secretary Michael Chertoff said he is requesting $775 million for SBInet in fiscal 2009. The department also recently awarded a $64 million task order to Boeing to develop a common operational picture for SBInet. A common operational picture is a single, relevant display of information that can be used by more than one group.
Along with the border wall boondoggle, that spy tower boondoggle is something else. Just in case you ever wondered how your tax dollars were spent (or more properly, how that borrowed money from China and other semi-willing lenders was being spent).

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