The question is, what kind of fence?
The Bush administration wants the high-tech "virtual fence" called for in legislation zooming through Congress, while the Senate wants a fence fence, in this instance of a triple-layered design, and has made its preference clear in an 83-16 vote.
The virtual fence would be designed and built by a defense contractor like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon or Northrop Grumman, all of whom say they will submit bids for a multibillion-dollar contract and all of whom are generous Republican campaign contributors.
The virtual fence would use some of the same pricey high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan, including unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment.
This plan prompted an unusally sharp worded attack from Rep. Harold Rogers, a Kentucy Republican:
We've been presented with expensive proposals for elaborate border technology that eventually have proven to be ineffective and wasteful. How is the S.B.I. [Secure Border Initiative] not just another three-letter acronym for failure?Previous border initiatives such as Operation Hold the Line and Operation Gate Keeper were flops, but President Bush says that he is convinced that the government would get it right this time.