Cost, kinks could kill 'virtual fence' for U.S.-Mexican border

Technical glitches and cost concerns could spell the end of a high-tech "virtual fence" once thought to be the future of law enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Federal officials once believed a smattering of high-tech, high-resolution cameras, movement sensors and radars would help border patrol agents there catch immigrants as they enter the United States illegally.


But a handful of unresolved kinks, a history of program delays and new doubts of the program's cost effectiveness could spell the end of the so-far $672 million program, which former President George W. Bush piloted in 2005.

President Barack Obama has proposed cutting $189 million from the "virtual fence" program as part of his latest budget, even though he supported the program in name during the 2008 campaign trail.

Some officials now believe parts of the high-tech security system will remain intact, but the federal government's initial, more ambitious plan to cover most of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border will be dropped.

Chief among the problems plaguing the "virtual fence" are its cameras, which are typically slow to respond. During testing, border patrol agents often found themselves zooming in to get a better look at objects, only to discover the person had moved before the camera could re-orient itself, according to the Associated Press.

The radar system, too, often confused vegetation and humans during inclement weather, the AP also reported.