DHS kicks off SBI-Net with surveillance pilot

System at 40 ports will include video analytics and data archiving

The Homeland Security Department is laying the groundwork for the Secure Border Initiative Network program.

DHS' first move was to award Northrop Grumman Corp. a five-year, $33.7 million contract to set up a pilot project for a border security surveillance system. Officials said the system eventually could be integrated into the planned SBI-Net.

The Northrop Grumman contract award forms part of a range of new border control activities, including both IT projects and other work, that Homeland Security Department secretary Michael Chertoff says have helped reduce illegal border crossings.

While the award, made by DHS' Customs and Border Protection agency, is for a pilot project at 40 land ports, it is being billed as an adjunct to the estimated $2 billion SBI-Net comprehensive border surveillance network for the U.S. land borders, which is scheduled to be awarded by Sept. 30.

Northrop Grumman leads one of five teams competing for that award. DHS released the request for proposals for SBI-Net in April.

'This pilot program is another investment in DHS' Secure Border Initiative and an adjunct to the SBI-Net acquisition, responsible for integrating personnel, technology, infrastructure and rapid response capability into a comprehensive border protection system,' Kirk Evans, acting executive director for CBP's SBI Program Management Office, said in a release. 'The pilot will be evaluated and, based on performance results, may be integrated into the SBI-Net solution set.'

Under the agency's Border Security Development Program, Northrop Grumman will establish a surveillance system at more than 40 land border ports along the southern border with Mexico. The program already exists at 124 northern points of entry along the U.S.-Canada border.

The pilot project contract would enhance current capabilities by adding new technologies, including digital imagery, motion detection, and remote monitoring, the press release said.

As part of the contract, Northrop Grumman's Information Technology unit will design and install the surveillance systems, train personnel and design and implement four regional command centers. The project will include surveillance, communications, video analytics, network and IT components and archiving capabilities, Northrop Grumman said in a release.

SBI-Net replaces the America's Shield Initiative (ASI), the Border Patrol's more limited and now canceled plan to modernize the sensor networks along the borders.

DHS secretary Michael Chertoff said at a recent press briefing that the Border Patrol, now reinforced with National Guard troops and set to receive additional trained agents, is improving its resistance to illegal crossings.

Chertoff added that SBI also extends to internal immigration law enforcement, for which DHS plans to mobilize additional IT.

'People are now complaining that it is tough to cross the border,' Chertoff said. 'As it gets harder, people will not want to come.'

When discussing SBI, Chertoff includes non-IT measures such as increasing the number of detention beds for illegal entrants.

He also cites internal immigration law enforcement projects such as upgrades to Citizenship and Immigration Services' Basic Pilot Program, a database that can help employers check the visa status of new employees.

Chertoff said in the press briefing that he supports expansion of the Basic Pilot Program and that his department seeks legislation to get better access to Social Security Administration data to make it more accurate.

Chertoff cautioned that DHS is taking into account the problem of mistakes in Social Security Administration data.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for GCN's sister publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

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


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