SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
Three months after the Department of Homeland Security installed a costly high-tech â??virtual fenceâ? along the busiest stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, the sophisticated equipment is not yet functioning due to a series of technical problems.
Designed to protect the country from drug smugglers, illegal immigrants and terrorists, the $20 million system along the Arizona border has nine, 98-foot towers equipped with radar, sensors and state-of-the-art cameras. The system is supposed to coordinate radar, sensor and camera sightings to alert Border Patrol agents of illegal crossings.
The Department of Homeland Security announced the innovative virtual fence with great fanfare last year as a sure way to increase the apprehension capabilities of overwhelmed federal agents guarding the U.S. border. So the government gave Boeing Co. a lucrative contract to create the unprecedented system and, after many delays, it was finally installed in June along a 28-mile stretch southwest of Tucson.
Initially, Homeland Security officials said a radar problem was hampering the expensive system which sits idly as thousands of illegal immigrants enter the country. This week, the problem is said to be a â??software glitchâ? that requires extensive testing. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff assures that the necessary testing will be conducted in early October and the system should be running by the end of the year.
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