SBInet weathers management turnover, reports of demise

However, on April 11, Kirk Evans, manager of the program at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), resigned his position, citing numerous problems.
In his resignation letter, Evans cited “recent cost overruns and lack of a systems design by prime contractor Boeing” as reasons for quitting.
Evans stated that he held himself accountable for the “cost, schedule, and technical performance” of the program as its manager. But, “the SBInet program has continued to be buffeted by constantly changing requirements, the lack of a program baseline and an unrealistic schedule—all of which make managing a program of this size and importance increasingly difficult and risky to successfully manage.”
Evans was reassigned within DHS, and on April 24 John Santo, a veteran Customs official, was appointed acting program manager.
Media mistake
On April 24, in a widely disseminated report, the Associated Press erroneously stated that Project 28 and SBInet was being “scrapped.”
In fact, the program is entering a new phase this summer that will include installation of its first permanent surveillance towers and changes in the radar and communications systems, chief CBP spokesperson Jeffrey Robertson told HSToday.
Installation of permanent surveillance towers to replace the nine temporary towers that tested the functionality of cameras and radars marked a new phase of the program, Robertson explained.
“The reality is that we’re not scrapping the virtual fence—or the towers or the sensors,” Robertson declared. “We’re putting new towers in because we’re putting in fixed towers. The ones that were there were mobile because they were prototypes that moved to different locations to test the sensors. There is not going to be a DRMO [Defense Reutilization and Marking Office] fire sale with excess property.”
The permanent installation of towers will include a change of radars—from KU-band to X-band systems—because the current radar systems are not best suited for use with vegetation along the US southern border.
In addition, Boeing is working to rapidly install a new command operating system to produce the common operating picture CBP operators and Border Patrol agents depend upon.
CBP learned a great deal from its investment, Robertson stated, making the program to date a success overall. It would be much further along, however, if Border Patrol agents had been involved in the design of the system from the start.
“There was a big mistake because we did not have our Border Patrol agents—our frontline guys—involved with the development,” he concluded. “The contract wasn’t written that way. That’s because it was a firm, fixed price contract and Boeing said they could do this. They could show us this system with the towers, and the communications could actually work. Well, the principle did work, but was it the right operating system? No, it wasn’t. Was it exactly the right radars? No, they weren’t.”

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