Past Features

July 18, 2017

The Swamp Master?
How could so many miss the fatal flaw in Borkowski's plan?

Top left: Mark Borkowski, CBP Top Right: Rep. Martha McSally
Bottom left: Rebecca Gambler, GAO Bottom right: Ronald Viitiello, CBP
Glenn Spencer -- July 18, 2017
How did the Integrated Fixed Towers Happen?
Lessons learned --- hopefully
    One hundred forty eight million dollars of Customs and Border Protection camera towers sit idle in the Coronado National Forest. It is increasingly likely they will never be used --- as is.
    (We take a close look at the towers here.)
    How could it this have happened?
    The story of the stretches back six years when then assistant commissioner for the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition announced plans for new integrated fixed towers.
    At the time, Commissioner Borkowski praised the Boeing company.
 Homeland Security Today -- May 4, 2011
   "The Boeing system produced right now is operating very effectively and we like it," he said. "Now, it is relatively high end. And I am hopeful that we can skinny down this common operating picture to be more manageable.
    "But it is a good system and it is working. It took longer than it should have to get there. It was more expensive to get there. But Boeing has a good system. We think other people have good systems. We encourage everybody, including Boeing, to bid on this. We would like the opportunity to make trades between cost and performance across the range of systems that are available to us, and Boeing is one of those systems," he added.
    When first I leaned of the Boeing virtual fence eleven years ago, I said it would fail because there was no way to measure its performance.
    One billion dollars was spent before the virtual fence was cancelled. The New York times said it was cancelled because it was “ineffective and too costly”.
    On June 12, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General issued special report that included an astounding revelation that the Integrated Fixed Towers were never tested to see if they work as intended --- where they were installed.
    Over the past six years, Mark Borkowsk has sold his Integrated Fixed Towers to people who should have known better. At the heart of the problem was the failure of CBP to demand proof that the towers could detect and identify border intruders. There was no true measure of success.
    Back in 2015, one reporter once asked: How many times does Borkowski get to fail?
    Our government allowed Borkowski to spend more that $300 million dollars without knowing if his towers actually worked. There were reports and hearings that should have exposed this problem --- but did not. Were the people involved not smart enough to understand the problem --- or were they part of the problem?
    In the coming week I will go into detail as to what happened.
Note: The original plan called for 52 IFTs. The new CBP budget calls for "$17.4 million in FY 2018 for procurement, construction, and improvements towards the IFT program" --- clearly not sufficient for new systems.