At the US-Mexico border, there has been significant use of surveillance equipment — unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as “drones”), thermal imaging equipment — and there has also been a plan to expand the use of this equipment, to build a “virtual fence.” The New York Times reported on the Secure Border Initiative (also known as “SBINet”) last year, noting, “The first phase of the $6.7 billion project — a network of towers rigged with cameras, sensors and communications equipment — will cover about 23 miles south of Tucson, in the busiest area for illegal crossing. Within five years, officials said Friday, the fence is expected to extend along the entire 2,000-mile border except for some 200 miles in the area of Big Bend National Park in Texas.”
Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has released a statement on funding for the virtual fence project, which shows the program may be in trouble:
Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost effective way possible. The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet Block 1 to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements. Additionally, we are freezing all SBInet funding beyond SBInet Block 1’s initial deployment to the Tucson and Ajo regions until the assessment I ordered in January is completed.