Thursday, May 1, 2008

Death of a Virtual Fence

In September 2006, Boeing won a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contract ( to construct a virtual fence along the US/Mexican border. Estimated to be worth up to $2.5 billion over a four-year period, this effort was hailed by the DHS as a major first step in their Secure Border Initiative.

Fast forward 18 months and DHS officials have acknowledged the initial pilot for the virtual fence roll-out which included towers, radars, cameras and computer software has failed to meet expectations. The system didn’t work well enough to “keep or continue tweaking.”

Is this a failure by our government? Should the $20M spent on this pilot program be chalked up as a waste? How about Boeing? Are they accountable for this failed program?

Absolutely not.

My view is that this is an example of the type of responsible planning, budgeting and evaluation of technology programs that all enterprises should have in place. Rather than rushing to roll-out the entire program, DHS working in lock-step with Boeing took a measured approach to assess whether the virtual fence concept as proposed would work.

It didn’t. DHS admitted it wasn’t viable. The program was discontinued.

The reality is that the implementation of any type of enterprise system – whether it is custom or COTS – is a challenge. Customers and vendors need to work together to set realistic expectations and benchmarks, and then measure progress every step of the way.

Not everything is going to pan out as planned. And that’s OK.

Government will replace virtual border fence

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