June 26, 2007
28-Mile Virtual Fence Is Rising Along the Border
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
SASABE, Ariz., June 21 — If the effort to catch people illegally crossing the border here in the southern Arizona desert is a cat-and-mouse struggle, the Homeland Security Department says it has a smarter cat.

It comes in the form of nine nearly 100-foot-tall towers with radar, high-definition cameras and other equipment rising from the mesquite and lava fields around this tiny town.

Known as Project 28, for the 28 miles of border that the towers will scan, the so-called virtual fence forms the backbone of the Secure Border Initiative, known as SBInet, a multibillion-dollar mix of technology, manpower and fencing intended to control illegal border crossings.

If successful, hundreds of such towers could dot the 6,000 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders.

But glitches with the radar and cameras have forced the project to miss its June 13 starting date, just as Congress focuses anew on border security in the Senate measure to overhaul immigration law.

Officials at the Homeland Security Department insist that Boeing, which has a $67 million contract to develop the project and others, will soon put it back on track, though they are not providing a new completion date.

Boeing referred requests for comment to the department.

“We are making good progress,