Mexican virtual fence years off, GAO says

Associated Press / March 16, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Technology to replace a defunct virtual-fence project at the Mexican border will probably not be fully in place for at least another decade, maybe longer, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the GAO, said yesterday that the mix of cameras, radar, and other sophisticated technology will first be deployed to the border in Arizona over the next two years. The technology mix is expected to be fully deployed in that state by 2016.

Stana, who testified before a House subcommittee on border and maritime security, said the security project would next expand to California, New Mexico, and Texas but isn’t likely to be fully in place until at least 2021, and possibly not until 2026.

The new technology plan replaces a virtual-fence project that cost nearly $1 billion before the Obama administration scrapped it earlier this year after repeated delays and glitches. It will be added to stationary cameras, underground sensors, and other security infrastructure already in place.

Representative Mike McCaul, Republican of Texas, balked at the idea that the high-tech gear, which he said is already available to the military, would take more than a decade to be deployed.

“You are talking 10 to 15 years. It took us a decade to put a man on the moon,’’ McCaul said. “I don’t understand why it takes so long. You have a crisis going on down there.’’