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US Virtual Border Fence Doesn't Work 337

Posted by kdawson
from the time-to-try-pair-programming dept.
lelitsch writes "The Washington Post reports that the initial pilot of the Virtual Border Fence planned by the DHS and subcontracted to Boeing has been a miserable failure. A lot of the points in the report have the hallmark of death-march software development projects. Some choice quotes include 'did not work as planned or meet the needs of the U.S. Border Patrol,' 'DHS officials do not yet know the type of terrain where the fencing is to be constructed,' and 'the design will not be used as the basis for future... development.' The article notes that Boeing was forced to deliver 'something' early as President Bush pushed for immigration reform in Congress in 2006. That reform effort died last year in the Senate."
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US Virtual Border Fence Doesn't Work

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  • by Ranger (1783) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:01AM (#22599270) Homepage
    But how will we stop all those virtual Mexicans now?
    • by Channard (693317) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:05AM (#22599316) Journal
      Someone needs to do all those shitty jobs that your average Second Life citizen thinks they're too good for.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)
        They wouldn't be such bad jobs if we didn't permit illegal immigration to mess with the labor supply to drive down wages. For whatever reason, a lot of people have it in their minds that hard physical work "just must be" worthless because it doesn't take much training. But if it came down to it, I'm betting they'd much rather do their desk jobs than pick strawberries even for the very same pay.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Picking strawberries wouldn't be such a bad job if non-illegals did it... citizens wouldn't be afraid to speak up about unfair conditions, the lack of health benefits, unsafe conditions, and the lack of a union. The wouldn't be afraid of being deported if they asked for things like water and breaks.
          • And eating strawberries wouldn't be quite so easy if citizens picked them.... How much would the price of strawberries increase if the people picking them managed to get minimum wage, health benefits, safer conditions and unions? A great example of this is Hawaiian Kona coffee. It retails for >$20 per pound, but is no better than the South American coffees that you can buy for about 1/3 the cost. Why? Because it's grown and picked in America by people who get minimum wage, health benefits, unions, e
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by fredklein (532096)
              How much would the price of strawberries increase if the people picking them managed to get minimum wage, health benefits, safer conditions and unions?

              Not much at all, all things considered. Labor costs are around 5% of the cost of an item. SO, you could increase labor wages by a factor of 10, and only raise the cost of the final product by 50%.

              Example:
              Price per apple = $1.00
              Labor cost per apple= $.05
              Non-labor cost per apple= $.95
              New Labor cost x 10= $.50
              New apple cost= $.95 +.50 = $1.45

              That's not bad con
          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:55AM (#22601476) Homepage Journal
            "Picking strawberries wouldn't be such a bad job if non-illegals did it... citizens wouldn't be afraid to speak up about unfair conditions, the lack of health benefits, unsafe conditions, and the lack of a union. The wouldn't be afraid of being deported if they asked for things like water and breaks."

            That and we have PLENTY of able bodied people on welfare, that could be put to work....if you want welfare help, get out and work some jobs like this too.

            If we didn't have illegals driving down wages in manual labor markets, our welfare folks might could get off welfare and make living wages.

        • by jcnnghm (538570)
          I think you're wrong. I'd love to be outside all day every day in the summer time. If I had the opportunity to make as much/or more as a landscaper as I can as a programmer/sys admin, I'd probably choose to work outside. I'd be in better shape, less stressed out, and in all likelihood happier. This is probably one of the reasons that communism doesn't work.
        • by AJWM (19027)
          If strawberry pickers were paid at the same rates as the average desk worker, we'd have robotic strawberry pickers by now.

        • by nicklott (533496) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:50AM (#22600484)
          Name me one society in history that has valued physically demanding jobs over sedentary work... Through most of history societies have used slavery or other forms of compulsion to make other people do the hard physical work they didn't want to.

          I don't think recent illegal immigration is messing with wage levels here, this is the other edge of the double edged sword of free-market capitalism: If strawberry-picker wages rise then the price of strawberries will rise too. But then wal-mart won't sell as many strawberries, so they'll go and buy them from producers in other, cheaper, countries, eg mexico. This will drive the growers out of business, losing the Fed a whole bunch of taxes and earning them a barracking in congress. To keep the US growers in business then the government either looks the other way while the growers use illegal immigrants to get their cheap labour (the only way to keep it cheap enough is for the employees not to have any benefits, hence illegal immmigrants) or pays them a subsidy to keep the prices down. Obviously they're going to plump for the cheaper option where possible.

          You can replace strawberry picking above with pretty much any industry in the country, be it animal, vegetable or mineral.

          For example Fruit/veg picking is largely manual labour that can't cut its costs by mechanising, it relies on on low labour costs so the government looks the other way. Cotton growing is now largely mechanised and wouldn't benefit much from cheaper labour so instead they get huge subsidies to keep the price competitive.

          This is also of course why the US is increasingly on the wrong side of the WTO. Free markets are great while you can sell your stuff cheaper than everyone else, but when they undercut you, it doesn't look so rosy; He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

          • GLADLY! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by rickb928 (945187) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:29AM (#22601026) Homepage Journal
            The U.S. for one.

            The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, etc all have physically demanding jobs that pay very well, thank you.

            And I know what you meant. 'physically demanding jobs' would mean 'manual labor'.

            Somehow, oil rigs are a good place to find physically demanding work that pays well. The key is that the product or output is valuable...

            We don't want to spend as much on our landscaping as we do on our SAP implementation, because the 'product' of our landscaper is not as valuable. That never will change. And productivity of landscapers is not the issue. The value of the product is.

            So answer me this, /.'rs...

            In Downeast Maine, blueberries used to be picked by the Mic Mac Indians from Canada and Maine. recently, however, the growers started importing migrant and illegal workers from 'wherever', and most were indeed Mexican. Other workes such as high school kids and a fair amount of regulars used to pick as well. I could make $600 a week back in the 60s, which was a darned good sumemr job save for the literally backbreaking work of raking berries out of bushes a foot high at most. bending over, carrying the boxes to the truck, etc was hard, but damn the money was good for a few weeks. But no more, the growers claimed a labor shortage. Truth is, the illegals are even cheaper than the Mic Macs, which is cheap indeed.

            This is not about our 'value' of labor, so much as it is the profit to be gained by reducing cost further.

            Remember Sen. John McCain, also known down here in Arizona as "Senator Lettuce"? He spouted off a couple of years ago (2006?) about how we 'couldn't' do the jobs Mexican immigrants did. In particular he made this statement:

            "If I offered you a job picking lettuce in Yuma for fifty dollars an hour, you couldn't do it, my friend".

            The next day, more than a handful of people showed up with resumes in hand, looking for the $50 an hour lettuce picking job. They were ready. Of course there are no jobs like that. Lettuce isn't worth that much.

            One of the lies is that this is about wages. It is about profits.

            Nobody has a dog in this immigraiton fight except the ordinary citizen:

            - Big Business likes cheaper labor, it equals both profits and lower costs of healthcare and such.
            - Federal government doesn't want to rile Business.
            - Democrats see Mexican immigrants as future Democrats.
            - Republicans dare not offend them, lest they become Democrats.
            - Labor unions see them as future members. Sooner or later.
            - State governments don't want Business to move to another state or overseas, which they will do anyways.

            Don't be surprised that the 'virtual fence' doesn't work. Ineffective measures will be a key component in the federal government's war on immigration. Reagan's '86 (or was it '87?) immigration reform had three main features:

            - Amnesty. This worked, mostly.
            - Securing the borders. No money, no securing the borders. This worked famously.
            - Deportation of undesirables and future illegals. No money. This also worked famously.

            The current plans will be more of the same. Amnesty is crucial, as it bring the Democratic Party new members, aids the labor unions, and gives Business the same workers at pretty much the same pay. Failing to secure the borders ensures continuing supplies of cheaper labor. Deportation is of course pointless if the border isn't secured. In fact, deportation is a free trip home to visit family and educate others on how to 'do it' in the U.S.

            We need change, alright. Arizona's employer law is a start. But I'm not hopeful. We need to vote out the scoundrels. Sadly, all of our Presidential candidates seem to be drinking the same Kool-aid on this issue.

            We also need to stop rewarding moving jobs offshore. We don't need to offer incentives for keeping jobs here, just not incentives for sending them overseas...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kellyb9 (954229)
      I've always wanted a virtual gardener.
    • Obviously, no matter what, the virtual Mexicans are simply too determined to be stopped by a mere firewall.
  • by RockMFR (1022315) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:02AM (#22599278)
    Outsourcing the software development to Mexico was a terrible idea.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:02AM (#22599280)
    If we just annexed Mexico we'd only have to build half as much fence to keep the Guatamalans and Hondurans out. Plus, they have margaritas.
    • You joke, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by geoffrobinson (109879) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:11AM (#22599356) Homepage
      It amazes me that the Mexican president encourages illegal immigration into this country and calls those of us who want immigration laws to be followed racist or anti-Latino. All the while, they have stringent immigration laws for those coming to Mexico and are trying to build a fence with Guatemala.

      The chutzpah is unbelievable.
      • Re:You joke, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by arivanov (12034) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:46AM (#22599710) Homepage
        It does not amaze me in the slightest.

        Mexicans sending money home - surplus money.

        Other Latin Americans illegally entering the country and sending money home - lose money.

        This is also not just Mexico, but all over the world. In some places it is actually legal. Poland is exporting workforce to the UK and importing from Belorussia and Ukraine. Romania is exporting workforce to Italy and Spain and is importing from Moldova. And so on. And all of them try to restrict influx while very happily consuming money sent home by gastarbeihters.
        • Re:You joke, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ScentCone (795499) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:08AM (#22599942)
          In a recent conversation with a tour guide/historian while standing in the ancient Roman coluseum in Verona, Italy, this exact topic came up. The structure was built with slave labor at the height of the Roman empire's economic/military juice (it's quite a thing to see, really - but a shame that the outer ring of the thing got clobbered in an earthquake... though that provided lots of nice Extreme Makeover supplies for the local architects working on the town's other buildings). During the summer, they have a regular rotation of opera performances (sans amplification - very quaint, very cool) on stages/sets that have to be loaded in and out and rapidly changed. The work is done in the sweltering heat during the day. It's hugely labor intensive, and almost entirely done by eastern Europeans who are the equivalent of the migrant workers that pick lettuce in California. The guide (herself a native Veronese) said, "Oh, Italians would never do that job - it would kill them!" She also made jokes about how it would scuff their shoes. Mind you, she's a local, so she's allowed.

          But she also talked about the utter lack of affordable housing for the workers, the huge crime problem that comes with (and between) them, the large camps of them that live under bridges, etc. But the Romanians (largely) she referred to come and do it, rack up the cash, and them take it or send it home. The main point was that this is as old as time (well, as old as relatively modern civilization, anyway). Sure, the Romans did it at the point of a spear, and the (ironically named) Romanians are doing it out of an interest in clawing their way back from the ravages of life under a typically nasty Socialist regime... but the notion of having "other people" do certain kinds of work is, literally, a classic.
        • by grassy_knoll (412409) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:10AM (#22599960) Homepage
          You beat me too it.

          From the all knowing wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

          Remittances, or contributions sent by Mexicans living abroad, mostly in the United States, to their families at home in Mexico, are a substantial and growing part of the Mexican economy; they comprised $18 billion in 2005.[52] In 2004, they became the second largest source of foreign income after crude oil exports, roughly equivalent to foreign direct investment (FDI) and larger than tourism expenditures; and represented 2.5 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product.[53] The growth of remittances has been remarkable: they have more than doubled since 1997. Recorded remittance transactions exceeded 41 million in 2003, of which 86 percent were made by electronic transfer.[40]


          [ tinfoil ]
          Why, it's almost as if illegal immigration from Mexico is overlooked by the US Government as a method of foreign aid to Mexico. US corporations get cheap disposable labor ( if the workers complain they get deported ), Mexico gets an infusion of cash to prop up their government.
          [ /tinfoil ]

          • by cHiphead (17854)
            Theres nothing tinfoil about your speculation, its right on the mark.

            Personally, I'm all for illegal immigration, Mexican food just isn't the same with a legal immigrant cooking it.

            Cheers.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            Why, it's almost as if illegal immigration from Mexico is overlooked by the US Government as a method of foreign aid to Mexico. US corporations get cheap disposable labor ( if the workers complain they get deported ), Mexico gets an infusion of cash to prop up their government.

            It's part of the circle. We are the largest consumer of Mexican drugs (we're one of the world's largest producers of cannabis but still consume the lion's share of the product from mexico... we're also the world's largest consumer of cocaine as per the CIA WFB) which both puts money and crime into their country. We support military regimes in Mexico; you could buy a car in Brazil and drive towards Canada and the hardest part to get through would probably be Mexico. There's 16 year olds toting M-16s and we

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by es330td (964170)

        The chutzpah is unbelievable.

        I'd be more inclined to say "admirable." Given that it is estimated that more than 10% of Mexico's GDP comes from money sent back home from the US he's doing everything he can to improve his economy. Just think about his situation: he gets to govern a country with an income that goes up when people leave the country. People who are out of the country don't consume servives or materials and don't commit crimes. He should be doing everything he can to keep people coming across Mexico's southern border.

      • The south west was taken from Mexico. How did we do it? Not by the alamo and defeating Sanata Ana, but by moving large amounts of Americans into the area. The interesting thing is that many Mexicans fought against that because they felt that once the Americans outnumbered the mexicans, that they would annex it back into America. And we did.

        I am doubtful that the reverse will happen here, but the main reason why they come here is simple; MONEY. W's building a fence is a total joke. Whether physical or vir
    • Why bother? (Score:3, Funny)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      They are slowly annexing us by moving here.
  • by z80kid (711852) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:04AM (#22599290)
    No mere border fence is any match for

    The Six Million Peso Man [youtube.com]

  • Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:07AM (#22599330) Journal
    When the hell has building a giant wall ever helped anything? Jesus...At least they could have outsourced the work to China...Their wall didn't work, but at least it got finished.

    But, I suppose anything is better than coming up with a sensible immigration policy. Gotta keep those high-paying fruit picking, chicken boning, and christmas tree cutting jobs local.
    • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Detritus (11846) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:15AM (#22599394) Homepage
      One reason all those crap jobs have such lousy wages is that employers know they can always hire illegals, who are in no position to complain about wages or working conditions. I'd rather pay more and see an American citizen get the job.
      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:23AM (#22599482)
        I'd rather pay more and see an American citizen get the job.

        No, you wouldn't.
        Ideology is easy when it doesn't hurt you (or, in this case, your pocket).
      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:39AM (#22599636) Journal
        Actually, the reason is that you put someone through 12 years of school, and he doesn't want to work in a chicken processing plant anymore.

        Like it or not, we don't have the workforce to fill out those sorts of jobs anymore, and frankly it doesn't make any economic sense to force a decently educated worker into a job that could be filled for much less cost by someone who has no education at all. If nothing else, there is a huge opportunity cost for our economy when you force a worker that is capable of working some kind of high automation line job, into the kind of crap work that was common 100 years ago...It makes far more sense to send the work to another country in that case.

        It always annoys me when people like you think that, if only we paid the fruit pickers more and threw out all the migrant workers, then our economy would somehow boom. The only thing that would boom is the cost of the fruit, and that makes everyone who buys it poorer, it makes fruit from other countries more competitive in the marketplace, and that drives domestic fruit producers out of business. What a great plan.
        • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by grassy_knoll (412409) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:03AM (#22599886) Homepage

          It always annoys me when people like you think that, if only we paid the fruit pickers more and threw out all the migrant workers, then our economy would somehow boom. The only thing that would boom is the cost of the fruit, and that makes everyone who buys it poorer, it makes fruit from other countries more competitive in the marketplace, and that drives domestic fruit producers out of business. What a great plan.


          Ahh... so the best option for everyone is to ensure illegal aliens arrive en mass. If they complain about low wages, hazardous working conditions or exploitive management ( see: Company Store [wikipedia.org] ) then we deport them.

          Right. Nice way to maintain a permanent underclass.

          After all, it's not like if we required proof of citizenship and forced the agricultural industry to pay decent wages those workers would spend any money here in the US, right?

          Or if we permitted those workers to come to the US on visas and bring their families with them the practice of sending remittances to their home country might dry up or significantly decrease thus keeping more money in the US?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Ahh... so the best option for everyone is to ensure illegal aliens arrive en mass. If they complain about low wages, hazardous working conditions or exploitive management ( see: Company Store [wikipedia.org] ) then we deport them. Right. Nice way to maintain a permanent underclass. After all, it's not like if we required proof of citizenship and forced the agricultural industry to pay decent wages those workers would spend any money here in the US, right? Or if we permitted those workers to come to the U

          • The amount of money they send home is trivial compared to the amount of money we send to China to buy crap that could never be made here because if it was, it would cost ten times as much. The reason it costs so much is because that sort of labor is hugely scarce over here, and thus extremely expensive. But try and bring in more labor and you're "destroying american jobs". So we build giant walls, and, in the meantime, all our manufacturing relocates to places with cheap labor.

            The reason illegal immigrants
            • The reason illegal immigrants are treated so poorly is because people like you have made it a crime to allow people to come here and work.

              People like me? Wow. I'd no idea I've such power.

              To be clear, I'm in favor of legal immigration. I'm also in favor of making that easier to reduce wait times and backlogs.

              I don't want to see anyone exploited because they're afraid to go to the authorities if their working conditions are unsafe, their wages are substandard, et. al. .

              And I'd suggest that manufacturing in

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
                It's hard to blame the auto companies...They've got a lot of problems that aren't of their making. Their pension system is like our social security system...It's got a lot of people drawing on it, and less and less people paying into it. Automation has dramatically cut the workforce car manufacturers need, but they're still paying pensions on people who worked for them, pre-automation.

                To offset this, they hire more people than they need, so those people can pay into the pension fund, and keep the whole thin
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by drinkypoo (153816)

                  It's hard to blame the auto companies...They've got a lot of problems that aren't of their making. Their pension system is like our social security system...It's got a lot of people drawing on it, and less and less people paying into it.

                  Where is the problem not of their making? I'm not seeing it here.

                  US automakers made shitty cars and blew their good name so the Japanese made a bunch of brilliant cars and now the US automakers are fucked. If they don't suck union dick the unions will strike and make them look like assholes and they'll sell even less cars. But this is really their fault because they blew it in the seventies with total shitpiles everywhere. The Japanese made light little unibody cars while we were still fucking with stub

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Vellmont (569020)

          Actually, the reason is that you put someone through 12 years of school, and he doesn't want to work in a chicken processing plant anymore.

          Nonsense. People don't want to do those jobs at the wages offered, and the work conditions present.

          it doesn't make any economic sense to force a decently educated worker into a job that could be filled for much less cost by someone who has no education at all.

          More pure nonsense. Are you trying to tell me the education system is that much different than it was 30 years
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
            You think so? Historically the worst jobs have always gone to immigrants and poorly educated people, just back then they were more likely to already be in this country.

            Anyway, you're wrong. We were hemmoraging manufacturing long before 30 years ago. First it all fled the North, to the South, where the workers were cheap, and there were no unions. Then it fled to other countries...Little countries called "Japan" and "Taiwan" were gearing up to kick ass in the 70's.

            And it's nonsense to say that its a waste to
        • by bendodge (998616)
          How do you force someone into a job??
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Detritus (11846)
          Have you looked at high school graduation rates lately? There are millions of Americans that never received a decent education, and have limited skills. Plus, there are many Americans that are willing to do seasonal or part-time work, such as in agriculture, because they want to earn some extra money. Many of my cousins did this when they were young adults and didn't have an education and a career.
    • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:17AM (#22599416) Homepage
      you're right. the one in China was 100% ineffective and did not do anything.

      Damn Chinese they kept building it for decades upon decades all in a feeble attempt. Everyone knows that the Great Wall of china was a complete failure.

      sarcasm aside it CAN work and BE effective if it was not half-assed. Therein lies the problem. The idiots in Washington get all puffy and hem and haw all over the issue while in reality they secretly don't care and want to allow the illegal immigrants in the country. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that every single one of those congress critters has an illegal wither cleaning their house, pool or keeping up the yard. They dont want to stop the flow of very cheap labor coming into the US.
      • Re:Stupid. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:53AM (#22599772) Journal
        It actually didn't work all that well. Certainly didn't keep invaders from invading. It would have been far more effective (and cheaper) to just have a better military.

        How much money are you willing to sink into putting a goddamn WALL around the country? I frankly don't think it will ever work, and sure if we put as much money into it as we put into Iraq, I bet we could stop the immigration across the land, but I don't think that would be sufficient in the long run. If people want in, they'll get in.

        It never ceases to make me laugh how hard people fight to keep immigrants from doing jobs that they would never do, not in a million years. If you're worried about their treatment, then make it legal, give them the right to sue over poor conditions and workplace injuries. Tax their salaries to help pay for the demographic hellhole that will be this country for the next 30 or so years...Worried about your job? In 10 years, as the boomers retire en masse the workforce is literally going to shrink. That means we will need those people; we will need their labor, and we will need the tax revenue to pay for services for the huge chunk of society that's going to be retired.
        • by sheldon (2322)

          It never ceases to make me laugh how hard people fight to keep immigrants from doing jobs that they would never do, not in a million years. If you're worried about their treatment, then make it legal, give them the right to sue over poor conditions and workplace injuries.


          But if I did that, who would I ever get to mow my lawn?

          I sure don't want to have to do it!

        • It actually didn't work all that well. Certainly didn't keep invaders from invading.

          You've said this twice, with zero backup at all. Care to give some insight into this (false) theory? The wall(s) were WILDLY successful in stopping the constant threat of invasion from the North. During the 15-1600s, the Manchus tried for close to A HUNDRED YEARS to get past the walls, only succeeding after a traitorous border official OPENED THE GATES for them to let them through. Where do you get your info that the W

      • "the one in China was 100% ineffective and did not do anything."

        Well, it did help a little to keep the damn Mongorians [comedycentral.com] out for a while, but they kept knocking down the Shitty Wall.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by value_added (719364)
      When the hell has building a giant wall ever helped anything?

      Indeed.

      A better idea would have been to arm Lou Dobbs with automatic weapons.
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:15AM (#22599402) Journal
    ...a wide area surveillance group, I would like to suggest a few reasons why this occurred, especially given what we know of Boeing's attempt to provide a solution.

    Wide Area Surveillance is, like any real world 'enterprise' solution, complex. That is not to say it is not achievable, it is just not something you decide to do on a whim ;). There's a vast amount of 'learning through pain' which (of course) teaches you how to avoid stumbling blocks in the future. WAS is a fusion of architectural planning, mechanical engineering, network engineering, environmental engineering, and software engineering. It is also one of the more difficult management projects due to the fact that very few companies (almost none) have the in-house departments/divisions to handle all aspects of it; ergo, most companies do the more natural 'I am the lead contractor, you all can sub-contract to me for utilities, HVAC, network topology, integration software, camera systems, electromagnetic fences', et cetera.

    This means that during the bidding process for these jobs, as with any $$$LARGE$$$ government contract, much of the sub-contracting can be political and very rarely results in a proffered solution that is 'best in breed' in all (or even most) areas.

    This is all very normal. The real difficulty is in identifying which aspects of a WAS solution will kill your project. For example, the article claims that using off the shelf commercial software for dispatchers was a serious issue. I can tell you from experience, there's no way that this derailed the project. There are several companies (the one I used to work at is one for example) that specialize in integrating their 'command & control' (for lack of a more encompassing term) suites with 3rd party streaming video, network systems, hardware devices, et cetera. The relative cost of these systems varies from very low (with a fair amount of services work being entailed) to moderate (where you get far more C&C stuff than you plan to use but it's there if you need it in the future - but they fully integrate the things you do need off the bat.)

    Usually the biggest problems are from poor planning at the start or 'mid course correction' by people who didn't make careful consideration of their options up front regarding the physical infrastructure required. A good example of this is 'pole placement.' One of the easiest, conceptually, methods of watching swathe of territory where there isn't supposed to be much activity is to use a high quality camera mounted (usually mounted on a Pan/Tilt/Zoom gimbal) on a tall pole. How tall? THAT is the question my friends. From a cost point of view you want to put them up as high as is feasible given the terrain and what the local survey should be. This means less poles, less cameras, and less overall costs to cover a wider area; HOWEVER, the higher you put that camera the more difficult the installation of the pole because I assure you that putting a camera 60 feet off the ground results in shaking, deflection, twisting, and all kinds of other frame stabilization nightmares. Usually what happens is that the project denotes the max camera heights, assigns what types of poles/towers will support the cameras, how they will be built in order to overcome problems like these and then 6 months later they change the camera heights (usually because they want to cut out a few poles and the neighboring cameras must take up the slack), bingo you're well thought out and budgeted pole no longer serves your needs.

    It is at this point that the reader will think 'ok, then we need to redesign the poles right? No big deal...' Sadly this does not usually happen. The change request costs associated outweight the money saved on the pole changes but that doesn't mean they won't still use the wrong poles and save a hundred thousand on camera costs, they'll just try to hack some solution like putting a frame stabilizer black box on the back of the camera, because that should work, right? ;)
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:21AM (#22599448)
    The U.S. government is such a laughable morass of bureaucracy, exploitative contractors, incompetence, and outright ignorance that any huge project with big promises has to be viewed with suspicion (if not outright laughter). Anyone remember the FBI database overhaul [guardian.co.uk] debacle?

    NASA, the FBI, etc. all seem to follow the same pattern. They get the idea in their head for something big (usually as the result of politicians putting it there or the need to make it look like they're doing something about some big problem). Then they contract the technical stuff out to some contractor who feeds them a line of bullshit (instead of hiring their own people to do it, the way NASA did it in the 60's). Then they hold a big press conference, in which they make grandiose promises about how great this new thing will be (the best ones are accompanied by CGI animation of said great thing). Then they give some contractor a shitload of money. Then the contractor ends up in delays and overruns, forcing government agency to give them even MORE money. Then the contractor either doesn't deliver anything usable at all, delivers a shoddy piece of shit that doesn't even come close to the original promise, or simply delays it until the administration changes or the project gets canceled. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Everything you said is true not only of the govt but private enterprise as well. A great percentage of large-scale IT projects, in particular, fail.
  • Walmart (Score:5, Funny)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:27AM (#22599528) Homepage
    Just build the Great Walmart of America. One side is the employee entrance, the other side for customer.
  • DHS vs basic math (Score:4, Informative)

    by unchiujar (1030510) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:29AM (#22599550)
    some relevant quotes
    "Boeing has already been paid $20.6 million for the pilot project, and in December, the DHS gave the firm another $65 million to replace the software with military-style, battle management software. "
    "Boeing has said that the initial effort, while flawed, still has helped Homeland Security apprehend 2,000 illegal immigrants since September"
    A quick division $85 600 000 / 2 000 gives $42 800 per illegal immigrant. And this is the cost to the taxpayer without personnel salaries and other expenses, just what was payed to Boeing. I strongly doubt that each illegal immigrant, if not apprehended, will cost the US tax payers $42 800.
    • Quite the reverse. Cheap labor drives down the cost of domestically produced goods, which increases their appeal to consumers (both foreign and domestic), and the cheap labor, while they may send a portion of their income home to their country of origin, spends a goodly chunk of that income here, on goods and services.

      Immigrant labor has, historically, always been a boon to the economy. The only real issue here, is how poorly they're treated, and that has nothing to do with building walls.
    • by jo42 (227475)
      It would be cheaper to give each illegal $42,799 to stay in Mexico, nyet?
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      A quick division $85 600 000 / 2 000 gives $42 800 per illegal immigrant. And this is the cost to the taxpayer without personnel salaries and other expenses, just what was payed to Boeing. I strongly doubt that each illegal immigrant, if not apprehended, will cost the US tax payers $42 800.

      *sigh*

      Chevrolet invested (just making up a number here) $120 million developing the Chevrolet Volt. So far, not a single unit has been sold! Dividing 120 million by zero tells us that the whole project has been a h

  • The word might have been invented to describe this project!
  • Development Issues (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gallenod (84385) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:30AM (#22599572)
    I work for DHS and a friend of mine runs a small program that's been managing sensors on the border for 25 years.

    Boeing was hired as the project's integrator and instead of subcontracting or working with the existing systems tried to do everything themselves. Why? To keep as much money for themselves, of course. They ignored, at first, all the existing systems and tried to replace them with proprietary technology that would anchor them into govermnent contracts in perpetuity.

    They failed. Now they have to rely on refined data from a government-developed system to produce any results at all. This is a pattern I've seen in 26 years of working for the government: we hire an outside vendor who comes in and has to rely on our knowledge to make anything work. In a lot of cases they get us to do much of their work for them. The vendor's employees get huge bonuses and we get downsized. Granted there are times where if you don't bring in someone from the outside nothing will change, but the number of times internal staff saves the vendor's ass has been, in my experience, much higher than the other way around.

    Sometimes it's better to spend your money on what your own staff can do instead of just assuming that an outside vendor will automatically develop something better. For some reason, too many executives undervalue the abilities of their own people and hire big names like Boeing for many times what it would have cost to develop better systems in house. The Secure Border Initiative is apparently one of them.
    • by sheldon (2322) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:38AM (#22600340)
      You don't seem to understand. If you're a manager working for DHS, what future do you have?

      If you do it yourself, you'll just be a manager of a larger group with more work, but no more pay.

      If you hire Boeing, at least you know you'll be able to quite DHS in a few years and get a nice cooshy job as VP of Product Oversight for $1.5/mil a year for life, because of your aid in getting them the $4 billion contract.
      • by megaditto (982598)
        Plus don't forget that Border Patrol/DHS cannot make political contributions while outside companies can.

        It'd be interesting to see which Congressman pushed on this project, and how much he/she got back from Boeing
  • I'M SHOCKED!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Electric Eye (5518) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:36AM (#22599612)
    You mean something forced through in a short period of time using Homeland Security money failed?? I've never heard of such a thing. This never happens. The HS Dept is flawless in all of its executions and, as far as I know, has never wasted so much as a few dollars on something bogus. Just look at all the nice trailers they bought for those poor people in New Orleans! What about the millions of dollars of anti-terrorism "kits" and emergency response stuff sent to Wyoming? I just refuse to accept this article as truth!
  • If you don't choose wisely, it comes back to bite you....
  • by Badbone (1159483) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:37AM (#22599622)
    It was set up to fail from the very beginning. Its no secret that every power in the American government wants more illegals. The republicans want more cheap labor. The democrats want more poor voters. This fence was never more than distraction. Just a way for government to pretend they are doing something, while actually doing nothing.
    • This is by far the most sensible comment on this thread (though it had some close competitors, to be fair).

      It's no secret that every major decision maker knows that we need the cheap labor, unless we're all suddenly willing one day to pay $300 for that head of lettuce. (IIRC only Mike Huckabee was brutally frank about it, and that was not a message his target audience wanted.) What's more, these same people, and various media types like Mr. Dobbs, know full well that illegals = ratings.

      Remember the big ba

  • Let American 'sportsmen' hunt the illegals, a starlight scope and a bounty
    on illegals. The problem would disappear overnight.

    Illegal Male 100 bucks
    Illegal pregnant Female 300 bucks
    Illegal child 400 bucks (smaller target)

    I'd wager border incursions would fall off within two weeks of the practise
    starting. Plus the 'sportsmen' would become better shots. A win-win situation.
    Yeah, I do have too much time on my hands. My Grandparents stood in line to
    get in legally. Why cannot others do the same? They are CRIMINAL
  • First thing that came to mind when I read the headline was, they ran a simulation. Every time they ran it, the mexicans broke through the virtual fence like some an angry horde of mongols a la south park. This really is disappointing to me. I'm going to seriously consider whether I want to board an aircraft made by the company who couldn't engineer a fence within hours. It's a fence. I can engineer a fence that will stop mexicans. My mom could engineer a fence that will stop mexicans. The issue isn't
  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:02AM (#22599876) Homepage

    The reason Mexicans come to the US in droves is because their country is broken. Most of the police and half the military are on the take. Even the honest folks have decided to steer clear of the disaster.

    Nothing America erects on that border is going to change the fact that Mexicans can make a decent and safe living in Mexico.

  • No fence is needed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197)
    Only the middle class and poor want to keep illegal aliens out. The rich want the cheap labor. So they make mouth noises like they're upset over illegal immigration while hiring illegal immigrants themselves, because they're cheap.

    Catch an illegal and send him back, and that's all. If they really wanted to make the illegal aliens stay away, all they'd have to do would be to make illegal entry in this country a felony with a mandatory five year prison sentense for a first offense, fifteen years for a second
    • by sheldon (2322)

      Catch an illegal and send him back, and that's all. If they really wanted to make the illegal aliens stay away, all they'd have to do would be to make illegal entry in this country a felony with a mandatory five year prison sentense for a first offense, fifteen years for a second offense and thirty for a third offense.

      Let me see if I understand this. I'm in some country starving to death, and your answer to keep me out is to threaten to throw me in a prison where I get 3 squares a day and a bed to sleep on

      • by sm62704 (957197)
        They're not starving; we're not getting a lot of immigrants from Rwanda, after all. It's just that they can make a hell of a lot more money here than Mexico.

        And as to placing the penalty on those who do the hiring, that has its own problems. First, that's the way it's done now. They just sentenced someone from China who ran a local restaraunt for hiring illegals here in Springfield. That tactc isn't keeping illegals out, now is it?

        Second, you can't put a corporation in prison, and corporate leaders are almo
        • by sheldon (2322)

          we're not getting a lot of immigrants from Rwanda,

          It's kind of hard to walk here from Rwanda. I know, I tried. It's very wet, and after a while I couldn't breath.

          And as to placing the penalty on those who do the hiring, that has its own problems. First, that's the way it's done now. They just sentenced someone from China who ran a local restaraunt for hiring illegals here in Springfield. That tactc isn't keeping illegals out, now is it?

          Weird, this hasn't been federal law since the 1950s.

          However Arizona pa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thisissilly (676875)
      It currently costs ~$30,000 a year to keep a person in prison. Do you really think an illegal alien who is not breaking any other laws is costing taxpayers that much?

      Also, if you really want to stop illegal immigration, don't make illegal entry a felony -- make employing illegal immigrants a felony, and start throwing the people who employ them in jail. If the demand dries up, the supply will follow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gallenod (84385)
      We already have more people in prison, both in terms of percentage of population and quantity, than any other country on the planet, including such glorious examples of freedom and democracy as China and Russia. Now you want to add another 11 million people to the prison system?

      It would only work if we let GM, Ford, and Chrysler use prison labor to build cars for free. Or if we let mining companies use prison labor down in the mines. Or some similar plan that lets US companies take advantage of the low c
  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:55AM (#22601470)
    It is always nice to see a project meeting the administration's standards of excellence from inception.

    Congratulations!

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