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Highlights

In November 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) program to secure U.S. borders and reduce illegal immigration. One element of SBI is SBInet, the program responsible for developing a comprehensive border protection system. By legislative mandate, DHS developed a fiscal year 2007 expenditure plan for SBInet to address nine legislative conditions, including a review by GAO. DHS submitted the plan to the Appropriations Committees on December 4, 2006. To address the mandate, GAO assessed the plan against federal guidelines and industry standards and interviewed appropriate DHS officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To help ensure that Congress has the information necessary to effectively oversee SBInet and hold DHS accountable for program results, and to help DHS manage the SBInet program and ensure that future SBInet expenditure plans meet the legislative requirements, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Secure Border Initiative Program Management Office Executive Director to ensure that future expenditure plans include explicit and measurable commitments relative to the capabilities, schedule, costs, and benefits associated with individual SBInet program activities.
Closed - Not Implemented
GAO's review of the fiscal year 2009 expenditure plan determined that the plan was more detailed than the fiscal year 2007 and 2008 plans, but the FY09 plan did not fully address GAO's recommendation because it did not include explicit and measurable commitments relative to the capabilities, schedule, costs, and benefits for individual SBInet program activities. As a result, this recommendation remained open until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted a revised expenditure plan. However, in January, 2011, the Secretary of DHS cancelled the SBInet program. With that decision, this recommendation--specific to the SBInet program--is closed as not implemented.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To help ensure that Congress has the information necessary to effectively oversee SBInet and hold DHS accountable for program results, and to help DHS manage the SBInet program and ensure that future SBInet expenditure plans meet the legislative requirements, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Secure Border Initiative Program Management Office Executive Director to modify the SBInet systems integration contract to include a maximum quantity or dollar value.
Closed - Not Implemented
DHS did not agree with our recommendation to modify the SBInet integration contract to include a maximum quantity or dollar value. According to DHS, the quantity stated in the contract, "6,000 miles of secure U.S. border" is measurable and is therefore the most appropriate approach to defining the contract ceiling. We do not agree. In order to ensure that the SBInet contract is consistent with regulations, we continue to believe that it should be modified to include a maximum quantity, either units or a dollar value, rather than the total amount of miles to be secured.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To help ensure that Congress has the information necessary to effectively oversee SBInet and hold DHS accountable for program results, and to help DHS manage the SBInet program and ensure that future SBInet expenditure plans meet the legislative requirements, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Secure Border Initiative Program Management Office Executive Director to re-examine the level of concurrency and appropriately adjust the acquisition strategy.
Closed - Implemented
DHS's Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet) is a multi-year, multi-billion dollar program that will develop a comprehensive border protection system through a mix of technology, infrastructure, and personnel. In fiscal year 2007, the Congress appropriated $1.2 billion for the program and asked GAO to review the SBInet expenditure plan. As part of our review, we identified a significant risk to the program's schedule and costs because of its reliance on concurrent and interdependent tasks. We found that DHS planned to install SBInet technology in multiple sectors along the southwest border before lessons could be learned from the pilot deployment project. We pointed out that the greater the degree of concurrency, the greater a program's exposure to cost, schedule, and performance risks. Among other things, we recommended that DHS re-examine the level of concurrency and appropriately adjust the acquisition strategy. In March 2007, DHS submitted a revised SBInet expenditure plan for fiscal year 2007 to Congress. In response to our recommendation, the new plan delayed some technology deployment and, in its place, accelerated tactical infrastructure construction, thus reducing the risk of program inefficiencies and consequent cost escalation and schedule delays.

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