TUCSON, Arizona – A second section of the government's heavily criticized "virtual fence" is planned on the Arizona-Mexico border, and a third could be tested near Detroit by the end of the year, a Boeing Co. official said.
A prototype consisting of nine movable towers across a 28-mile area southwest of Tucson is to be torn down and replaced this summer because it failed to perform as expected.
But Jack Chenevey, program manager for Boeing's Secure Border Initiative project, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the company views results of its $20 million prototype as a steppingstone success.
"Border Patrol agents use it absolutely 24-7. The reliability and availability of the system has exceeded our expectations for a prototype system," Chenevey said in a telephone interview. The project also met all contractual requirements, he added.
The Secure Border Initiative envisions using virtual fencing along portions of both borders. The towers are intended to clamp down on illegal immigration by giving Border Patrol agents video and pinpoint locations of intruders.
Problems in the computer software tying together detections from its series of sensors, radars and cameras into a common picture delayed the prototype fence's operation for several months. Delays in satellite transmission of data added to its problems.
Boeing was paid $20 million by the Department of Homeland Security to build the fence last summer. It is north of the border near the port of entry at Sasabe.
Customs and Border Protection officials acknowledged last month that the towers, called Project 28, didn't work well enough to continue their refinement and said they would be replaced with improved ones.
Boeing expects to start building an additional 30 miles of new virtual fencing in southern Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument later this year, Chenevey said. The project is also expected to be tested along the Canadian border this year, near Detroit.
Boeing has a $45 million contract to create new software for the Border Patrol's needs. The company has been awarded about $860 million so far in secure border contracts for the entire nationwide SBI effort, including such tactical structures as vehicle barriers.