Cost Of Radiation Monitors Surpasses 2006 Estimate
The cost to put a new kind of radiation monitor in place at borders and ports across the country would be far more than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially told Congress, according to budget documents and interviews with officials.
The department’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office said in a report two years ago that the monitors would cost more than $500,000 each to buy and deploy. On the basis of that report, Congress allowed the office to move ahead with a $1.2 billion plan to begin deploying the devices.
According to the Washington Post, the nuclear detection office now estimates that the total cost for each machine will work out to at least $778,000. The office said it needs almost $68 million “for the procurement and deployment” of 87 machines for one portion of the project, according to budget documents.
A spokesman for the nuclear detection office told the Washington Post that the new cost estimates appear higher because they include current expenses to deploy the machines, such as infrastructure construction, calibration of the machines’ software and labor. Spokesman Russ Knocke said Capitol Hill was advised from the beginning that there would be additional costs for deployment of the machines, known as advanced spectroscopic portal monitors, or ASPs.
“The cost per unit of the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal system has not increased in price. The cost was previously quoted to Congressional staff and the Government Accountability Office as approximately $377,000,” Knocke said. “Congressional officials were also advised that there was a deployment cost associated with each system that includes a one year maintenance contract. The cost of deployment is approximately $325,000 and $400,000 per unit for current generation Radiation Portal Monitors and Advanced Spectroscopic Portal systems, respectively.”
Some officials familiar with the program said the cost to buy and deploy the ASPs could climb even higher after the GAO completes an independent assessment this summer.
The cost issues are the latest wrinkle for a program that has been described by the Bush administration as vital to Homeland security but which has been delayed repeatedly after GAO auditors and some lawmakers questioned its management and the effectiveness of the machines. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expects to address some of those issues in a hearing next month on Bush administration efforts to develop a global approach for thwarting potential detonation of nuclear bombs or dirty weapons in the United States.