DHS reshapes border technology plan

Chertoff said department officials are considering new technologies rather than deploying 'gadgets' along the border to detect illegal entrants.

Courtesy of A724/GAMMA

The Homeland Security Department is overhauling the $2.5 billion America's Shield Initiative to field technology at border crossings, in the wake of congressional criticism and an internal rejection of the project's plan.

Secretary Michael Chertoff told the House Homeland Security Committee last week that 'there may be changes in that program.' He said department officials would consider new technologies rather than deploying 'gadgets' along the border to detect illegal entrants.

Chertoff added that the department wants to recruit a new project manager for the initiative.

The current project manager is associate Border Patrol chief Kelly Good, according to a department spokesman.

The announcement follows the department's recent decision to suspend contractor work on the Emerge2 project to build a new financial management system. The ASI makeover represents a similar willingness by officials to reshape troubled programs before major spending begins.

The department's central IT Investment Re- view Board recently rejected ASI's project plan during its Key Decision Point 2 review, several sources inside and outside the government said.

A department spokesman de- clined to confirm that the ASI project plan had failed its KDP-2 review, citing confidentiality requirements necessary during the procurement process.

Vendor and government sources said the KDP-2 review is one of several hurdles a major IT project has to clear before it gains approval to go forward, and that KDP-2 is not a particularly stringent phase of the process.

The department's central IT leadership had convinced Border Patrol officials not to submit the America's Shield project plan last fall and asked them to further refine the plan, the sources said.

Input, a market research firm in Reston, Va., estimated that DHS would release the RFP for America's Shield in August and make an award by April. But with the latest setback, ASI likely will be delayed further.

ASI will integrate cameras, sensors and other devices and technologies deployed along thousands of miles of borders. It will incorporate the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System (ISIS), which comprises more than 200 video cameras along U.S. borders.

America's Shield will employ sophisticated technology such as geographic information systems and new control centers to integrate information from sensors along the borders, according to DHS officials. The systems will replace existing technology that, in some cases, is 30 years old.

ISIS has taken its share of congressional criticism, especially from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Management, Integration and Oversight.

'I think ISIS is the poster child for government waste,' Rogers told Chertoff during last week's hearing before the full committee. He opposes moving forward with ASI until all the ISIS problems have been resolved.

In June, Rogers' subcommittee held a hearing on a General Services Administration inspector general's report detailing mismanagement allegations dating back to ISIS' 1998 launch.

The charges concerned a lack of program oversight.

About the Authors

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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