How quick will it take the next administration to undo the doctrinaire free market ideology of Bush & Co.?
Under a McCain administration, it is likely to take 100 years, at least.
Under Obama? A good question. During last week’s debate in Austin, his responses (along with Clinton’s) to the immigration questions seemed unsettlingly sympathetic to using technology as a palliative for border control woes.
The problem is that border control technologies– such as the virtual fence–are a product of military contractors who are privatizing the border just as they have privatized war in iraq.
Further, a post by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation suggests Obama is not opposed to continuing the sort of private security force that Blackwater is angling to provide at the border, perhaps headquartered near San Diego.
And, today’s headline in the Washington Post about delaying the border’s “virtual fence,” provides an opportunity for Obama to think more about border contol issues.
The virtual fence folly is a prime example of free market ideology run amuck.
Today’s Washington Post reports that the “virtual fence” will be delayed 3 years because it “did not work as planned.” WaPo reports that DHS cites technical problems for its decision to remove control over Project 28 from Boeing, which requires the project to be redesigned.
Keeping in mind the corruption and fraud that has seeped into many privatized DHS projects lately, things must really be bad down there with Project 28, just south of Tucson, for DHS to reassert its control over Boeing.
For some background, consider a Wall Street Journal report last August:
Boeing Co. has changed the management of an electronic-surveillance project along the U.S.-Mexican border after falling more than two months behind schedule, marking the complications involved in setting up a new generation of border security.
The project, part of a larger Department of Homeland Security program called SBInet, is a critical link in the plan to use technology to monitor the borders for illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possible terrorists. Towers set up along a stretch of the border near Nogales, Ariz., are supposed to use motion sensors, cameras and radar to keep track of wide areas. According to the government, Boeing has had trouble getting the different components to work together without glitches.
The government’s plans for monitoring as much as 6,000 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders hinge on towers such as these working properly. If they prove ineffective, officials could be forced to spend billions of dollars for more traditional security measures, such as fences and more officers. The Homeland Security Department currently estimates that the virtual fence will cost about $8 billion through 2013, although the agency’s inspector general wrote last November that the cost could balloon to $30 billion.
This is the second delay for a relatively new project (the first was announced last June), launched after Boeing was awarded the government contract, September 2006. To et the contract, Boeing was supposed to have answered questions about the very real problems it has faced since the day after the ontract was awarded.
Project 28 (the pilot project), now delayed 3 years, was initially supposed to have been completed by mid June ’07. A spring ’07 GAO report on the virtual fence predicted the delays, reporting both expected and unexpected problems with implementing the virtual fence. According to the GAO, “virtual fence” cameras can’t tell the difference between immigrants and the rain, and couldn’t detect anything more than 5 kms away, which violates the Boeing contract.
Problems for border security and the taxpayer, nonetheless amount to a boondoggle for Boeing, particularly given Boeing’s “indefinite delivery” contract. Tax revenues fuel an over-bloated DHS budget, which then outsources its government responsibilities for homeland security, to such military contractors as Boeing. Delays and (temporary) loss of control over Project 28 don’t interfere with the Boeing award.
No such thing as failure in this privatized system. Consider the following investigation by Joseph Richey of the Nation Institute,
Since Boeing won the contract last year, the estimated cost of securing the southwest border has gone from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8 billion just a few months later. When Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter asked SBInet Director Giddens for the real costs at a February 2007 hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Giddens replied: “I wish I could answer that with greater clarity.”
At the same Congressional hearings, Boeing vice president and SBInet program manager, Jerry McElwee, took heat from Congressman William Lacy Clay who demanded information about the ballooning costs and the extension of the contract period. “You bid on these contracts and then you come back and say, ‘Oh we need more time. It costs more than twice as much.’ Are you gaming the taxpayers here? Or gaming DHS?” the Missouri Democrat asked.
DHS’s own inspector general, Richard Skinner, says that the Boeing contract is in the “high-risk” category for waste and abuse because of its scope, its dollar value, and “the vulnerabilities stemming from the lack of acquisition management capacity.”
Indeed, nothing could be better for business at Boeing than a 3 year delay. More government revenues and profits, rather than more oversight and accountability. And as Richey, shows, Congress, sadly, was aware of and did nothing about the fleecing, which goes to show how privatization ideologies are shared by Democrats as well as Republicans.
So, the question for Obama, assuming he becomes the nominee, regarding his commitment to deprivatize America, is whether he would terminate the Boeing contract, and other similar ones that now frame immigration control policy. Further, as president, would he overhaul the hollowed out DHS that seems to favor tis way of conducting business?
“Yes We Can” presumes the unprivatizing of America, which ought to start at our borders with the virtual fence.