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Note to President Elect Trump, “Find out why the SBInet project failed before you build your wall.”

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My father-in-law, Saul Obarzanek, was an immigrant who came to America when he was liberated from Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. He had survived by learning how to sew German uniforms, a skill that also prepared him for a successful career as a tailor in America. His clients included President Gerald Ford, President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore.


One day when I was at Saul’s house, I saw a suit that he was going to tailor for President Bill Clinton. It occurred to me that I could write a note and put it in one of the suit pockets, but I did not know what to say in the note. I would not have that problem now if I had an opportunity to pass a note to President Elect Donald Trump. This is what I would say to him:

Before you build your wall, find out what went wrong with the SBInet project so you will know why the last attempt to secure the entire length of the border with Mexico failed. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

President Elect Trump wants to build a great wall across the entire length of the border between the United States and Mexico. Before beginning a project of that magnitude, he should find out why the attempt to build a virtual wall across that border failed. I am referring to the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet), which was supposed to provide Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with the technological resources they needed to establish and maintain operational awareness and control of what was happening along the entire length of the border with Mexico.


The problems began with the contract that was awarded to Boeing Company for the SBInet project.


CBP awarded the SBInet project to Boeing Company on September 21, 2006. Boeing signed an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with a performance period of three years and a provision authorizing the possibility of three one-year long contract extensions. IDIQ contracts are used when the government cannot determine the precise quantities of supplies or services that will be required during the contract period. But how can the government control costs or set firm deadlines with an IDIQ contract? This was especially problematic for the SBInet project because the technology needed for the virtual fence had to be developed so it had not been field-tested yet.


Congressional oversight and input from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were ineffective.


In his statement at an oversight hearing on March 18, 2010, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism, observes that SBInet has had technological problems and deployment delays from the start. In 4.5 years, only 28 miles of SBInet technology have been deployed along the border. At the rate of 28 miles every 4.5 years, it will take 320 years to deploy the SBInet technology across the entire southwest border. And this is our Committee’s 12th oversight hearing on SBI-related issues.


Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MI) stated that GAO has issued many reports on why SBInet is failing, mentioning everything from poor planning and testing to inadequate oversight and user input. Today, GAO is releasing yet another report on the program. This report, which focuses on the testing of SBInet systems, once again reveals that SBInet has more problems than solutions. For example, from March 2008 to July 2009, more than 1,300 defects were found in the SBInet system. Furthermore, Border Patrol operators have found, among other things, that the radar systems are inadequate, many of the cameras are operationally insufficient, and the quality of the video feed is blurry and inconsistent.


Randolph Hite, GAO Director for Architecture and Systems issues, testified that DHS has failed to manage SBInet testing effectively, which has increased the risk that the system will not perform as expected and that it will take longer and cost more than necessary. For instance, DHS has not defined test plans and test cases for recently executed test events in accordance with relevant guidelines. None of the plans for testing system components addressed testing risks and mitigation strategies. Approximately 70% of the procedures for key test events were rewritten extemporaneously during execution because persons conducting the tests thought that the approved procedures were not accurate. And changes to the accepted procedures were not made according to a documented quality assurance process but instead were based on an undocumented understanding that DHS program officials said they had established with the contractor.


DHS Secretary Napolitano terminates the program.


In January 2010, DHS Secretary Napolitano ordered a Department-wide assessment of the SBInet program that included a cost-effectiveness analysis. Prior to this assessment, the Department had never conducted a comprehensive cost-effectiveness analysis to assess the operational value of the SBInet system against the projected cost even though such an analysis is a well-established prerequisite for a project of this size. Napolitano concluded on the basis of the report from that assessment that SBInet was not meeting current standards for viability or cost-effectiveness. She terminated the program on January 1, 2011, but by then, it had cost taxpayers almost $1 billion for two regions in Arizona covering just 53 miles overall of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.


Lessons learned from the SBInet fiasco.


  1. Perform a cost-effectiveness analysis before a large project is started;
  2. Ensure adequate oversight of defense contractors;
  3. CBP does not appear to be able to staff contract oversight positions with qualified personnel; and
  4. Establish clear metrics by which to measure the achievements of these extremely expensive programs.


Initially published on Huffington Post.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...=1479699039088




About the Author
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years; he subsequently served as the immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for twenty years. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and he has been in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson.









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Updated 11-21-2016 at 09:39 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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Comments

  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Mr. Rappaport's father in law, a genuine American hero, could certainly have told us about another Wall, the one that separated the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto from the non-Jewish section of the city. Almost all of the Jewish residents later died in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

    Clearly, our new incoming president, who only received a million or so fewer popular votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, has no plans or intention of exterminating any group of people, and none of my comments would ever even remotely suggest that he does.

    But his own comments during the campaign that Mexican immigrants were "criminals", "rapists" and drug dealers, as well the comments of his AG designate, Senator Jeff Sessions (reported in the November 19 Huffington Post) that immigrants from an entire country, the Dominican Republic, are in essence unfit to live in the US because of their alleged lack of skills (including Oscar de la Renta? - a Dominican-American) or their alleged affinity for sham green card marriages, at least bring back echoes (faint or perhaps not-so-faint) of the same racial attitudes that ultimately lead to Auschwitz and Treblinka in the case of the Nazis, and could lead to mass deportation and borders sealed against all but white, European, immigrants in the case of Donald Trump's America.

    The idea that all members of the Muslim religion are also a potential danger to America, if not all of western "Judeo-Christian" civilization, because of their beliefs, as recently expounded by two of the incoming president's other appointees, Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn, also brings back uncomfortable memories of what the German magazine Der Spiegel recently referred to as "words spoken in Germany 80 years ago" about the Jews.

    When this is added to a disturbing report in the November 19 Huffington Post that the new administration may not be ruling out the use of torture, a federal crime under 18 USC 1324 punishable by up to 20 years in prison even if committed outside the United States, there is good reason to look at the proposed Wall with Mexico, (whether it is ever built or not - and there is no reason to dispute Mr. Rappaport's thorough and exhaustive analysis of the possible technical difficulties) as part of a larger agenda for America on the part of the new, incoming administration.

    What is that agenda? We can only guess. But by all appearnces to date, it is one that could turn out to be quite different from the multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy that America enjoys now and will continue to do at least up through January 19, 2017.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 11-21-2016 at 05:00 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. Simplone's Avatar
    Let Trump build his wall...drug cartels and human smuggling mafias will simply construct a sophisticated network of tunnels in partnership with US government agencies (i.e. CIA, FBI)...federal officials need to perpetuate an unsecured southern border in order to get generous funding (and of course, to keep making richer the incompetent bureaucracy).
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs
    Mr. Rappaport's father in law, a genuine American hero, could certainly have told us about another Wall, the one that separated the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto from the non-Jewish section of the city. Almost all of the Jewish residents later died in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

    Clearly, our new incoming president, who only received a million or so fewer popular votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, has no plans or intention of exterminating any group of people, and none of my comments would ever even remotely suggest that he does.

    But his own comments during the campaign that Mexican immigrants were "criminals", "rapists" and drug dealers, as well the comments of his AG designate, Senator Jeff Sessions (reported in the November 19 Huffington Post) that immigrants from an entire country, the Dominican Republic, are in essence unfit to live in the US because of their alleged lack of skills (including Oscar de la Renta? - a Dominican-American) or their alleged affinity for sham green card marriages, at least bring back echoes (faint or perhaps not-so-faint) of the same racial attitudes that ultimately lead to Auschwitz and Treblinka in the case of the Nazis, and could lead to mass deportation and borders sealed against all but white, European, immigrants in the case of Donald Trump's America.

    The idea that all members of the Muslim religion are also a potential danger to America, if not all of western "Judeo-Christian" civilization, because of their beliefs, as recently expounded by two of the incoming president's other appointees, Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn, also brings back uncomfortable memories of what the German magazine Der Spiegel recently referred to as "words spoken in Germany 80 years ago" about the Jews.

    When this is added to a disturbing report in the November 19 Huffington Post that the new administration may not be ruling out the use of torture, a federal crime under 18 USC 1324 punishable by up to 20 years in prison even if committed outside the United States, there is good reason to look at the proposed Wall with Mexico, (whether it is ever built or not - and there is no reason to dispute Mr. Rappaport's thorough and exhaustive analysis of the possible technical difficulties) as part of a larger agenda for America on the part of the new, incoming administration.

    What is that agenda? We can only guess. But by all appearnces to date, it is one that could turn out to be quite different from the multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy that America enjoys now and will continue to do at least up through January 19, 2017.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    What does your comment about Trump have to do with my article on the need to address the SBInet problems before moving forward with a great wall across the entire border between the US and Mexico? I am trying to discourage him from starting a project that is doomed to failure and will be horrendously expensive.

    Nolan Rappaport

    Updated 11-21-2016 at 07:21 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Simplone
    Let Trump build his wall...drug cartels and human smuggling mafias will simply construct a sophisticated network of tunnels in partnership with US government agencies (i.e. CIA, FBI)...federal officials need to perpetuate an unsecured southern border in order to get generous funding (and of course, to keep making richer the incompetent bureaucracy).
    I don't think it is possible to build the wall Trump envisions, but I do think it would be a deterrent to illegal traffic across the border. A "deterrent." I am not claiming that it would stop illegal traffic, just that it would make crossing illegally more difficult....for many people anyway if not for the cartels moving drugs across the border.

    Are you suggesting that it isn't worth doing because it won't be 100% effective? By that standard, we should get rid of all of our criminal laws. Our prisons are overflowing with people who weren't stopped by criminal laws from committing crimes.

    But if you mean that there are other, more effective or cheaper ways to make crossing the border illegally more difficult, I would welcome your ideas on what those alternatives are.

    Nolan Rappaport
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Mr. Rappaport contends that President-elect Trump's Wall would be "horrendously expensive" and "doomed to failure". One might. I am sure with justification, have said the same thing about the Warsaw Ghetto Wall and the Berlin Wall.

    Certainly, the Nazis' Warsaw Ghetto Wall and the Communists' Berlin Wall were both doomed to failure. Like so many other building projects past and present, they might very well have been over budget too. Who knows? Who cares?

    That is not the reason that these two Walls became the epitome of infamy itself, and may well be regarded with scorn and anger by the people of the world 500 or 1,000 years or more from now.

    Donald Trump's Mexican Wall of Hate would no doubt be way over budget and less than fully effective, as Nolan convincingly argues. But those are not the real reasons why this Wall should never be built.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law

    Updated 11-22-2016 at 09:15 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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