Government Spending

Virtual Fence Virtually Dead


Even the federal government can only spend so much on a project that's never worked. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that after three and a half years and $1.4 billion, she is freezing funding for the virtual border fence in Arizona. From an NPR post-mortem:

Homeland Security hired The Boeing Co. 3 1/2 years ago to build a string of towers along the 2,000-mile border. The towers were to integrate off-the-shelf products—cameras, radar, connections to ground sensors—so that Border Patrol agents could see who and what was coming across in real time….

Boeing built a 28-mile test section in the Southern Arizona desert. It didn't work. The company regrouped, redesigned and redeployed one set of towers near the first set. It is building another section right now. The entire border was supposed to be covered a year ago, but after three years—and $1.4 billion—the system is still full of bugs.

"Well, it sort of works," [Government Accountability Office (GAO) staffer Rich] Stana said.

A GAO report due out tomorrow outlines the failures of the effort, and alleges that some of the tests of the virtual fence were rigged to guarantee success, according to NPR. A Boeing executive is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security tomorrow as well.

NPR notes, however, that despite the freeze, the project is not completely dead. Homeland Security plans a full review of the project before pulling the plug completely.

For Reason's look at comprehensive immigration reform, check out the August/September 2006 issue, or just read more from the Reason archive on illegal immigration.

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  1. “Well, it sort of works,” [Government Accountability Office (GAO) staffer Rich] Stana said.”

    and to think there’s twaddlenocks who post hier who think these HLS yahoos need more money and to take more of our civil liberties.

    mein gott

    *head explodes*
    **pours Wild Turkey 101 directly into the neck stump**

    1. and the AntiImmigrationTwaddlenocks who are afraid that they’lltakeourjobs.

    2. Why don’t libertarians have any taste when it comes to liquor?

      1. What, you think we sit around in our top-hats and monocles drinking Ripple?

        I’m an Islay single malt man, myself, although I’ve been hitting the Remy Martin XO lately. For mixing, Patron Anejo tequila and Tito’s vodka, as the occasion demands.


        1. What a bore you are, Rc. Is that really supposed to be impressive?

        2. Well, you say we libs have no taste when it comes to liquor. I’m pretty happy with my liquor cabinet.

          What’s in yours?

          1. 16 different spoof handles for trolling, apparently.

            1. SugarFree,I would make you my bitch but you would enjoy it too much;-)

              1. Boring.

                1. SugarFree, I’m ignoring you today. You’re like a dirty little habit that I can only take in small increments.

          2. Some would say that liquor cabinets are intended to impress lesser folk, or equal folk to whom the cabinet owner wishes to show off.

            1. My liquor cabinet is not for show, as that might lead to sharing.

              I keep some more pedestrian distillations around for company who is rude enough not to bring their own.

              1. “I keep some more pedestrian distillations” What a magnanimous host you are! Seriously, you must be fucking playing with me.

        3. Tullamore Dew. Neat.

          1. We could drink together any day.

      2. Why don’t libertarians have any taste when it comes to liquor?

        We’re not exactly public school teachers, here. Our ability to afford the good stuff is limited.

  2. “Well, it sort of works.”

    Well, that’s sort of an evaluation.

  3. Knob Creek here.

  4. How about using the virtual fence to detect virtual illegal immigrants? The government can then save hundreds of millions of dollars by running the whole thing inside a computer and leaving the real world alone.

  5. Sadly, I’m going to guess fiscal responsibility has little to nothing to do with this. It’s just that this boondoggle isn’t supported by the constituents of the party currently in power.

  6. No problemo.

  7. Appleton Estate Rum 30 Year Old Limited Release.

  8. I wonder how much razor wire you could buy for 1.3 billion?

    Lay two lines of razor wire and bring the border troops now in Korea home to patrol between the lines to protect our own border.

    1. How about bringing the North Korean border troops over. They’re better at it.

    2. I have a better idea – we can just escalate the drug war, wipe out the entire population of Mexico, and just recolonize. That’s pretty much how we got the rest of the country, and it solves at least 2 problems right off the bat.

      1. Save that idea for when the next ice age arrives.

  9. Janet Napolitano announced that after three and a half years and $1.4 billion, she is freezing funding for the virtual border fence

    So who won here: ideology, economic reality, or Manuel, the taco-truck guy?

    1. Economic reality.

      What didn’t win:

      Ideology: A lot of people still don’t like mexicans crossing the border, taking our good jobs. So we still need to do something.

      Manuel, the taco truck guy: is still hunted and ostricized, and is subject to random stops because he’s violating some kind of taco-truck regulatory regime, even though he’s generating economic activity that wasn’t the result of government picking my pocket. In fact, that’s why Manuel isn’t welcome here. Generating economic activity outside of a federal stimulus program is 1000 years bad juju.

  10. The tidbit about rigged tests isn’t fleshed out. Proper testing would include some “rigged” tests.

  11. “Well, it sort of works,” [Government Accountability Office (GAO) staffer Rich] Stana said.

    For instance, it kept thousands of government-funded Union jobs in gravy… That’s a win, right?

  12. There was never any chance that a wall would be built. Not because it wouldn’t work (in fact, history has shown that walls work very well), but because the people in government have no desire to crack down on illegal immigration. The Republican Congressmen want cheap labor, and the Democrats want more votes. The rich Congressmen can live in their gated communities and hire cheap maids. Middle class families are hurt since crime goes up and students in their kid’s schools can’t speak English, but so what?

    PS (Please don’t bother showing me the data that immigrants have lower crime rates–yeah, but their kids don’t)

    1. History may have shown that walls work very well, but Penn & Teller showed that this one wouldn’t:

      About 4:00 minutes in. Or watch the whole thing if you want to see Nick Gillespie.

      1. Well, duh – they’re *magicians*, and Teller is little! Building a wall to keep Penn and Teller out is obviously prohibitive.

  13. National Review had a good line – if the virtual wall turns out not to work, we can always make it twice as vitually high.

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