Missing the Facts
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.