Leadership Journal Archive
October 12, 2007 - January 19, 2008

February 26, 2008

Missing the Facts

Mobile sensor tower in the Arizona desert. (Photo stargazing.com)
This past weekend, I was surprised to open The Wall Street Journal and read a story that was riddled with inaccuracies about Project 28 – or the first 28 miles of our virtual border fence. I’d like to set the record straight and clear up any confusion about what we’re doing along the Southern border, and what role technology is playing in our overall strategy.

As anyone living in the Southwest will tell you, it’s a rugged, landscape with little geographic uniformity. Therefore a one-size-fits-all approach utilizing a single physical fence or a single virtual fence is doomed to fail. That’s why we’re applying a mix of technology, traditional fencing, and manpower to secure the roughly 2,000 mile border – and Project 28, or P28, is the first stretch of what will eventually be several miles of towers, radars, and sensors at strategic points along the border.

First, the Journal story stated that the initial 28 miles of virtual fence we recently installed in Arizona would be the end of the project. This is simply incorrect. From the outset, P28 was designed as a prototype, or a building block that would be tested and refined so it could be deployed elsewhere along the border.

The next glaring inaccuracy in the Journal’s article was their reference to “the effective mothballing of the concept” as “a setback for the government’s border-protection efforts.” Mothballing the concept? We just formally accepted the project last week, and have a budget request of $775 million next fiscal year to continue to develop and deploy technology and tactical infrastructure along the border – precisely P28’s purpose. One might surmise that the reporters confused the meaning of “mothballing,” with “full steam ahead.”

The article went on to report that we awarded a $64 million contract to Boeing late last year to fix the Common Operating Picture, an integral part of P28. This allows our Border Patrol agents to view images relayed from P28’s towers to their vehicles and acts as a force multiplier, allowing fewer agents to cover more ground. The fact of the matter is that this contract was not awarded to fix anything, but rather was a planned investment for the development of a new Common Operational Picture and to build on the progress Boeing had made throughout the project. Any assertions to the contrary are simply false.

I’ve seen this system work with my own eyes, and I’ve talked with the Border Patrol Agents who are using it. They assure me that it adds value. That’s what matters to me, and it’s a fact that cannot be denied.

Michael Chertoff

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  • I will be disappointed to see the DHS use a bulk of the border line for "virtual fencing" instead of the real physical fencing that was approved by Congress in 2006.

    People; Terrorists; illegal aliens, can all SEE a physical fence......that acts as a psychological deterrent to those who want to cross illegally into the U.S.

    If they don't SEE anything to stop them...they will just be motivated to keep trying.

    I believe you NEED BOTH a two-layer physical Fence with sensors & camera's, like the fence in the San Diego area that works so well!
    WHY CAN'T WE HAVE THAT? WE ALREADY KNOW IT WORKS. I just don't understand all the foot-dragging about getting the two-layer physical fence built in a rapid manner.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 27, 2008 2:50 PM  

  • A virtual fence?
    That’s a fence that is not really there.

    DHS, where is your memory? Several years ago before the San Diego area had it’s double layer real fence, there were “organized border rushes” of Mexican Nationals crossing our southern border.

    Using a slang-term, it was called a ‘bonzi-rush’, it is where about 1,000 or so Mexican nationals line up along the border and at a given signal….all 1,000 of them rush –run-dash across our border as fast as they can, all at once! With only about 25 Border Patrol Officers to stop them, the large group mostly got past the Border Patrol and ran straight up the I-5 and I-805 freeways towards Los Angeles and disappeared.

    A so-called “virtual” fence will not stop any large organized group intent on crossing our border. We need and we want a real physical border fence to keep us safe and to keep illegal aliens out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 27, 2008 6:42 PM  

    I cannot believe this is happening! We, the United States, should not have to stand for this incompetence! We want a PHYSICAL TWO LAYER BORDER FENCE now!

    We want the mandated physical two-layer border fence that Congress told you to build in 2006! THIS COULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETED BY NOW!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 28, 2008 11:55 AM  

  • You’re leaving our border open, even now way after the 2006 order to build a real fence, put’s Americans at risk. Any delay; such as the one you are inflicting us with still; is causing hundreds if not thousands of illegal aliens; violent drug smugglers; Terrorist's to freely come across our border every day!

    Please completely seal our border today! Send in the military if you have too! These multi-year delays’s show the world we cannot control our own borders, so why not just come on and take us over. We are vulnerable and too stupid to close our own borders even when we are at war.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 28, 2008 12:02 PM  

  • A 3 year delay? Another delay!?

    Why doesn’t the DHS just go in and build the real physical fencing in place of the “virtual” fence, since it does not work? It would be cheaper and much more effective.

    Is it that the DHS does not want to be effective? Because that is what it is looking like.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 28, 2008 12:06 PM  

  • How about we use that proposed 1.4 BIllion aid package for MExico to AID in building the fence.

    How about that Mr. Cherthof.

    Or are we going to be expected to pay for our own ammunition.

    My retired mother just purchased 5000 rounds of 357 magnum. Getting ready for when the fence fails I hear.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 28, 2008 1:03 PM  

  • Rather than building physical fencing, which is more effective and cost efficient than the virtual alternative, DHS is wasting time and taxpayer dollars pursing a system that has proven to be unreliable.

    It is time that DHS accept the reality that virtual fencing is incapable of delivering the same success as physical fencing, and begin building an enforcement mechanism that actually works.”

    Build a true fence; a real fence; a strong fence.
    The "virtual" fence is wasting our valuble time and money! You could have have the entire fence finnished by now if you were building an actual fence!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 28, 2008 5:56 PM  

  • Citizens want aggressive interior enforcement of our immigration laws; as well as enforcement at the borders.

    It must be BOTH! Most citizens want to see a large reduction in the illegal alien population around us. Our economy depends it. Our jobs and wages depend on DHS enforcing our laws.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 4, 2008 2:54 PM  

  • Mr. Chertoff,

    A virtual fence requires that contact be made between Border Patrol Agents and the illegal aliens who are crossing. It requires that the Border Patrol Agents chase-down and apprehend the "illegal" as the only way of stopping them, everytime. Since there is no physical barrier. No clear barrier. This could be very dangerous for the Agents.

    A real physical fence protects the Border Patrol Agents from coming into physical contact with the illegal aliens crossing....much of the time. Since there is a "fence" in between them. The fence ( a double layer fence!)as a barrier helps to protect the Agents, and they would not have to come into contact with the "illegals" at least part of the time.

    I think the real physical fence is much safer to the Agents, and safer for the USA too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 6, 2008 3:27 PM  

  • Mr.Chertoff,

    Thankyou for clearing up the mistakes that the Wall Street journal had made. Although obviously there is much disagreement on the benefits of a virtual fence, I believe that both are adequate solutions.
    While the virtual fence is becoming strengthened through research and P28 efforts, the physical fence is being constructed. Instead of just doing one fence or the other, perhaps a plan would be to implement both kinds of fences.
    A virtual fence would strengthen a physical fence and vice-versa. The Canadian Border also is implementing Project Noble Mustang that has been proven to work. Perhaps that is another option to decrease the flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

    Thank you for your efforts!

    By Anonymous M. Russell, At March 12, 2008 2:12 PM  

  • I have to disagree with the people calling for a physical fence across the entire border as if it's an either-or proposition. Physical barriers can be useful in some areas, but technology can be far more effective. There's no reason to have a knee-jerk reaction to some initial delays or setbacks. That would be giving up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 20, 2008 8:53 AM  

  • It's a funny thing. Most people along the border disagree with the fence and do not want it to go up. There are many U.S. communities who's interaction with bordering towns, will end. I could not think of a better way to draw an opinion than to go and live on the border or listen to opinions of those that do.

    By Anonymous Fence Construction, At September 9, 2008 5:41 PM  

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