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United States Government Accountability Office: 


Before the Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittees on 
Management, Investigations, and Oversight; and Border, Maritime, and 
Global Counterterrorism: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT: 
Thursday, March 18, 2010: 

Secure Border Initiative: 

Testing and Problem Resolution Challenges Put Delivery of Technology 
Program at Risk: 

Statement of Randolph C. Hite, Director: 
Information Technology Architecture and System Issues: 


March 18, 2010: 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittees: 

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in today's hearing on the 
technology component of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 
Secure Border Initiative (SBI). My statement today is based on our 
report Secure Border Initiative: DHS Needs to Address Testing and 
Performance Limitations That Place Key Technology Program at Risk, 
which is being released at this hearing.[Footnote 1] 

As you know, SBI is intended to help secure the 6,000 miles of 
international borders that the contiguous United States shares with 
Canada and Mexico. The program, which began in November 2005, seeks to 
enhance border security and reduce illegal immigration by improving 
surveillance technologies, raising staffing levels, increasing 
domestic enforcement of immigration laws, and improving physical 
infrastructure along the nation's borders. Within SBI, the Secure 
Border Initiative Network (SBInet) is a multibillion dollar program 
that includes the acquisition, development, integration, deployment, 
and operation of surveillance technologies--such as unattended ground 
sensors and radar and cameras mounted on fixed and mobile towers--to 
create a "virtual fence" along the border. In addition, command, 
control, communications, and intelligence software and hardware are to 
use the information gathered by the surveillance technologies to 
create a common operating picture (COP) of activities within specific 
areas along the border and transmit the information to command centers 
and vehicles. 

In September 2008, we reported to you that important aspects of SBInet 
were ambiguous and in a continuous state of flux, making it unclear 
and uncertain what technology capabilities were to be delivered when. 
In addition, the program did not have an approved integrated master 
schedule to guide the program's execution, and key milestones 
continued to slip. This schedule-related risk was exacerbated by the 
continuous change in and the absence of a clear definition of the 
approach used to define, develop, acquire, test, and deploy SBInet. 
Furthermore, different levels of SBInet requirements were not properly 
aligned, and all requirements had not been properly defined and 
validated. Also, the program office had not tested the individual 
system components to be deployed to initial locations, even though the 
contractor had initiated integration testing of these components with 
other system components and subsystems, and its test management 
strategy did not contain, among other things, a clear definition of 
testing roles and responsibilities; or sufficient detail to 
effectively guide planning for specific test events, such as 
milestones and metrics. Accordingly, we made recommendations to 
address these weaknesses which DHS largely agreed to implement. 
[Footnote 2] 

In light of SBInet's important mission, high cost, and risks, you 
asked us to conduct a series of four SBInet reviews. This statement 
and report being released today provide the results for the first of 
these reviews.[Footnote 3] Specifically, they address (1) the extent 
to which SBInet testing has been effectively managed, including 
identifying the types of tests performed and whether they were well 
planned and executed; (2) what the results of testing show; and (3) 
what processes are being used to test and incorporate maturing 
technologies into SBInet. 

In summary, SBInet testing has not been adequately managed, as 
illustrated by poorly defined test plans and numerous and extensive 
last-minute changes to test procedures. Further, testing that has been 
performed identified a growing number of system performance and 
quality problems--a trend that is not indicative of a maturing system 
that is ready for deployment anytime soon. Further, while some of 
these problems have been significant, the collective magnitude of the 
problems is not clear because they have not been prioritized, user 
reactions to the system continue to raise concerns, and key test 
events remain to be conducted. Collectively, these limitations 
increase the risk that the system will ultimately not perform as 
expected and will take longer and cost more than necessary to 
implement. For DHS to increase its chances of delivering a version of 
SBInet for operational use, we are recommending that DHS improve the 
planning and execution of future test events and the resolution and 
disclosure of system problems. DHS agreed with our recommendations. 


Managed by DHS's Customs and Border Protection (CBP), SBInet is to 
strengthen CBP's ability to detect, identify, classify, track, and 
respond to illegal breaches at and between ports of entry. CBP's SBI 
Program Office is responsible for managing key acquisition functions 
associated with SBInet, including tracking and overseeing the prime 

In September 2006, CBP awarded a 3-year contract to the Boeing Company 
for SBInet, with three additional 1-year options. As the prime 
contractor, Boeing is responsible for designing, producing, testing, 
deploying, and sustaining the system. In September 2009, CBP extended 
its contract with Boeing for the first option year. CBP is acquiring 
SBInet incrementally in a series of discrete units of capabilities, 
referred to as "blocks." Each block is to deliver one or more system 
capabilities from a subset of the total system requirements. 

In August 2008, the DHS Acquisition Review Board decided to delay the 
initial deployment of Block 1 of SBInet so that fiscal year 2008 
funding could be reallocated to complete physical infrastructure 
projects. In addition, the board directed the SBInet System Program 
Office (SPO) to deliver a range of program documentation, including an 
updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP),[Footnote 4] detailed 
test plans, and a detailed schedule for deploying Block 1 to two 
initial sites in the Tucson Sector of the southwest border. This 
resulted in a revised timeline for deploying Block 1, first to the 
Tucson Border Patrol Station (TUS-1) in April 2009, and then to the 
Ajo Border Patrol Station (AJO-1) in June 2009. Together, these two 
deployments are to cover 53 miles of the 1,989-mile-long southern 
border. However, the SBI Executive Director told us in December 2009 
that these and other SBInet scheduled milestones were being 
reevaluated. As of January 2010, the TUS-1 system is scheduled for 
government acceptance in September 2010, with AJO-1 acceptance in 
November 2010. However, this schedule has yet to be approved by CBP. 

DHS Has Not Effectively Managed SBInet Testing: 

Testing is essential to knowing whether the system meets defined 
requirements and performs as intended. Effective test management 
involves, among other things, developing well-defined test plans and 
procedures to guide test execution. It is intended to identify and 
resolve system quality and performance problems as early as possible 
in the system development life cycle. 

DHS has not effectively managed key aspects of SBInet testing, which 
has in turn increased the risk that the system will not perform as 
expected and will take longer and cost more than necessary. While the 
department's testing approach appropriately consists of a series of 
progressively expansive test events, some of which have yet to be 
completed, test plans and test cases for recently executed test events 
were not defined in accordance with relevant guidance. For example, 
none of the plans for tests of system components addressed testing 
risks and mitigation strategies. 

Further, SBInet test procedures were generally not executed as 
written. Specifically, about 70 percent of the procedures for key test 
events were rewritten extemporaneously during execution because 
persons conducting the tests determined that the approved procedures 
were not sufficient or accurate. Moreover, changes to these procedures 
were not made according to a documented quality assurance process but 
were instead made based on an undocumented understanding that program 
officials said they established with the contractor. While some of 
these changes were relatively minor, others were significant, such as 
adding requirements or completely rewriting verification steps. The 
volume and nature of the changes made to the test procedures, in 
conjunction with the lack of a documented quality assurance process, 
increases the risk that system problems may not be discovered until 
later in the sequence of testing. This concern is underscored by a 
program office letter to the prime contractor stating that changes 
made to system qualification test procedures appeared to be designed 
to pass the test instead of being designed to qualify the system. 

These limitations are due, among other things, to a lack of detailed 
guidance in the TEMP, the program's aggressive milestones, schedule, 
and ambiguities in requirements. Collectively, these limitations 
increase the likelihood that testing will not discover system issues 
or demonstrate the system's ability to perform as intended. 

SBInet Testing Results Have Identified a Growing Number of System 
Performance and Quality Problems: 

The number of new SBInet defects that have been discovered during 
testing has increased faster than the number that has been fixed. (See 
figure 1 for the trend in the number of open defects from March 2008 
to July 2009.) As we previously reported[Footnote 5] such an upward 
trend is indicative of an immature system. 

Figure 1: SBInet Open Defects from March 2008 to July 2009: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustrated line graph] 

Date: March 2008; 
Open defects: 24. 

Date: April 2008; 
Open defects: 63. 

Date: May 2008; 
Open defects: 69. 

Date: June 2008 (begin Integration testing); 
Open defects: 106. 

Date: July 2008; 
Open defects: 149. 

Date: August 2008; 
Open defects: 168. 

Date: September 2008; 
Open defects: 139. 

Date: October 2008 (end Integration testing, begin CQT); 
Open defects: 103. 

Date: November 2008; 
Open defects: 105. 

Date: December 2008 (end CQT, begin SQT); 
Open defects: 233. 

Date: January 2009 (end SQT); 
Open defects: 278. 

Date: February 2009 (begin SQT regression [on-going]; begin CQT 
regression [on-going]); 
Open defects: 247. 

Date: March 2009; 
Open defects: 330. 

Date: April 2009; 
Open defects: 253. 

Date: May 2009; 
Open defects: 219. 

Date: June 2009; 
Open defects: 302. 

Date: July 2009; 
Open defects: 240. 

Source: GAO analysis of DHS data. 

[End of figure] 

Some of the defects found during testing have been significant, 
prompting the DHS Acquisition Review Board in February 2009 to 
postpone deployment of Block 1 capabilities to TUS-1 and AJO-1. These 
defects included the radar circuit breaker frequently tripping when 
the radar dish rotated beyond its intended limits, COP workstations 
crashing, and blurry camera images, among others. 

While program officials have characterized the defects and problems 
found during development and testing as not being "show stoppers," 
they have nevertheless caused delays, extended testing, and required 
time and effort to fix. Moreover, the SPO and its contractor have 
continued to find problems that further impact the program's schedule. 
For example, the radar problems mentioned previously were addressed by 
installing a workaround that included a remote ability to reactivate 
the circuit breaker via software, which alleviated the need to send 
maintenance workers out to the tower to manually reset the circuit. 
However, this workaround did not fully resolve the problem, and 
program officials said that root cause analysis continues on related 
radar power spikes and unintended acceleration of the radar dish that 
occasionally render the system inoperable. One factor that has 
contributed to the time and resources needed to resolve this radar 
problem, and potentially other problems, is the ability of the prime 
contractor to effectively determine root causes for defects. According 
to program officials, including the SBI Executive Director, the 
contractor's initial efforts to isolate the cause of the radar 
problems were flawed and inadequate. Program officials added, however, 
that they have seen improvements in the contractor's efforts to 
resolve technical issues. 

Along with defects revealed by system testing, Border Patrol operators 
participating in an April 2009 user assessment identified a number of 
concerns. During the assessment, operators compared the performance of 
Block 1 capabilities to those of existing technologies. While Border 
Patrol agents noted that Block 1 offered functionality above existing 
technologies, it was not adequate for optimal effectiveness in 
detecting items of interest along the border. Users also raised 
concerns about the accuracy of Block 1's radar, the range of its 
cameras, and the quality of its video. Officials attributed some of 
the identified problems to users' insufficient familiarity with Block 
1; however, Border Patrol officials reported that the participating 
agents had experience with the existing technologies and had received 
2 days of training prior to the assessment. The Border Patrol thus 
maintained that the concerns generated should be considered 
operationally relevant. 

Effectively managing identified defects requires a defined process 
for, among other things, assigning priorities to each defect and 
ensuring that more severe ones are given priority attention. However, 
the SPO does not have such a documented approach but instead relies on 
the prime contractor for doing so. Under this approach, defects were 
not consistently assigned priorities. Specifically, about 60 percent 
(or 801 of 1,333) of Block 1 defects identified from March 2008 to 
July 2009 were not assigned a priority. This is partly attributable to 
the SPO's lack of a defined process for prioritizing and managing 
defects. Officials acknowledge this and stated that they intend to 
have the contractor prioritize all defects in advance of future test 
readiness reviews. Until defects are managed on a priority basis, the 
program office cannot fully understand Block 1's maturity or its 
exposure to related risks, nor can it make informed decisions about 
allocating limited resources to address defects. 

DHS Science and Technology Directorate Testing Process Is Being Used 
to Leverage Maturing Technologies for SBInet: 

The SPO does not have its own process for testing the relevance to 
SBInet of technologies that are maturing or otherwise available from 
industry or other government entities. Instead, it relies on DHS's 
Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), whose mission is to provide 
technology solutions that assist DHS programs in achieving their 
missions. To leverage S&T, CBP signed a multiyear Interagency 
Agreement with the directorate in August 2007. According to this 
agreement, S&T is to research, develop, assess, test, and report on 
available and emerging technologies that could be incorporated into 
the SBInet system. To date, S&T has focused on potential technologies 
to fill known performance gaps or improve upon already-made technology 
choices, such as gaps in the radar system's ability to distinguish 
true radar hits from false alarms. S&T officials told us that they 
interact with Department of Defense (DOD) components and research 
entities to identify DOD systems for SBInet to leverage. In this 
regard, SPO officials stated that the current SBInet system makes use 
of DOD technologies, such as common operating picture software and 
radar systems. Nevertheless, S&T officials added that defense-related 
technologies are not always a good fit with SBInet, due to operational 

GAO Is Making Recommendations to Improve SBInet Test Management and 
Problem Resolution: 

To improve the planning and execution of future test events and the 
resolution and disclosure of system problems, we are making the 
following four recommendations to DHS: 

* Revise the SBInet Test and Evaluation Master Plan to include 
explicit criteria for assessing the quality of test documentation and 
for analyzing, prioritizing, and resolving defects. 

* Ensure that test schedules, plans, cases, and procedures are 
adequately reviewed and approved consistent with the Test and 
Evaluation Master Plan. 

* Ensure that sufficient time is provided for reviewing and approving 
test documentation prior to beginning a given test event. 

* Triage the full inventory of unresolved problems, including 
identified user concerns, and periodically report the status of the 
highest priority defects to Customs and Border Protection and 
Department of Homeland Security leadership. 

In written comments on a draft of our report, DHS stated that the 
report was factually sound, and it agreed with our last three 
recommendations and agreed with all but one aspect of the first one. 
DHS also described actions under way or planned to address the 

In closing, I would like to stress how integral effective testing and 
problem resolution are to successfully acquiring and deploying a large-
scale, complex system, like SBInet Block 1. As such, it is important 
that each phase of Block 1 testing be managed with rigor and 
discipline. To do less increases the risk that a deployed version of 
the system will not perform as intended, and will ultimately require 
costly and time-consuming rework to fix problems found later rather 
than sooner. Compounding this risk is the unfavorable trend in the 
number of unresolved system problems, and the lack of visibility into 
the true magnitude of these problems' severity. Given that major test 
events remain to be planned and conducted, which in turn are likely to 
identify additional system problems, it is important to correct these 
testing and problem resolution weaknesses. 

This concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to respond to 
any questions that you or other Members of the Subcommittees may have. 

Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For questions about this statement, please contact Randolph C. Hite at 
(202) 512-3439 or Individuals making key contributions 
to this testimony include Deborah Davis, Assistant Director; Carl 
Barden, James Crimmer, Neil Doherty, Lauren Giroux, Nancy Glover, Dan 
Gordon, Lee McCracken, Sushmita Srikanth, and Jennifer Stavros-Turner. 

[End of section] 

Attachment 1: Summary of GAO's Ongoing SBInet Work for the Committee 
on Homeland Security: 

SBInet's Commitment, Progress, and Acquisition Management. Our 
objectives are to determine the extent to which DHS has (1) defined 
the scope of its proposed system solution, (2) developed a reliable 
schedule for delivering this solution, (3) demonstrated the cost 
effectiveness of this solution, (4) acquired this solution in 
accordance with key life cycle management processes, and (5) addressed 
our recent recommendations. We plan to report our results in April 

SBInet's Contractor Management and Oversight. Our objectives are to 
determine the extent to which DHS (1) has established and implemented 
effective controls for managing and overseeing the SBInet prime 
contractor and (2) is effectively monitoring the prime contractor's 
progress in meeting cost and schedule expectations. We plan to report 
our results during the summer of 2010. 

Security Border Initiative Financial Management Controls Over 
Contractor Oversight. Our objectives are to determine the extent to 
which DHS has (1) developed internal control procedures over SBInet 
contractor invoice processing and contractor compliance with selected 
key contract terms and conditions and (2) implemented internal control 
procedures to ensure payments to SBInet's prime contractor are proper 
and in compliance with selected key contract terms and conditions. We 
plan to report our results during the summer of 2010. 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO-10-158 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 29, 2010). Both the report and 
this statement are based on work performed in accordance with 
generally accepted government standards. Those standards require that 
we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate 
evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the 
evidence obtained during the course of this review does provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 

[2] GAO, Secure Border Initiative: DHS Needs to Address Significant 
Risks in Delivering Key Technology Investment, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 22, 

[3] See attachment 1 for the objectives and status of the other three 

[4] The TEMP defines the program's integrated test and evaluation 
approach, including the scope of testing and the staff, resources 
(equipment and facilities), and funding requirements associated with 

[5] GAO, Office of Personnel Management: Improvements Needed to Ensure 
Successful Retirement Systems Modernization, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31, 

[End of section] 

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