The Obama administration killed a multibillion-dollar proposal to deploy new, self-operating bioweapon sensors in U.S. cities, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last week finalized plans to forgo the procurement of a third generation of Biowatch technology, reversing his department's longtime push to deploy sensors that personnel would not need to check regularly for organisms from an unfolding biological attack.
The policy shift signals a dedication to "cost-effective acquisition without compromising our security," Homeland Security spokesman S.Y. Lee said.
The proposed update was expected to carry a $3.1 billion price tag for its first five years of use, whereas the existing Biowatch program has cost $1.1 billion since 2003.
Prior reporting revealed a history of inaccurate readings from the existing sensors, as well as problems concerning the dependability of the developmental detection gear.
Homeland Security "remains committed to the Biowatch program and the importance of improving our early warning and detection technologies," said Michael Walter, who oversees the detection system now deployed in more than 30 U.S. cities.
Congressional auditors are still reviewing the activities of existing Biowatch sensors, following an August call by House lawmakers to assess possible "additional benefits" from any upgrade. The United States as of 2012 had spent $150 million to develop the next-generation technology, according to the Government Accountability Office.