Harboring lingering doubts about the ability of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to acquire off-the-shelf fixed, integrated surveillance towers to be deployed along the nation’s southwest border, the House Appropriations Committee last week cut $20 million from the agency’s budget request for border security technology.

The appropriators are recommending $222.2 million for the Arizona Border Technology plan, $19.8 million less than requested, and are fencing $150 million pending receipt of a detailed spending plan.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in January ended the previous border security technology plan, called the Secure Border Initiative Network, or SBInet, in favor of a more flexible approach. For SBInet, Boeing [BA] was developing and deploying fixed surveillance towers as well as unattended ground sensors (UGS), but the new plan calls for few fixed towers to be combined with a mix of mobile surveillance towers, legacy surveillance cameras, UGS and thermal imaging devices.

Under the new effort, called the Arizona Border Technology Plan, CBP will purchase the Integrated Fixed Towers through an open competition but expects to do so without committing to development work so that they can be deployed relatively quickly.

The appropriators in their report accompanying their mark-up of the FY ’12 DHS budget request say “the facts are contrary to this assertion” that the IFTs can be deployed quickly.

“It took four years of painstaking work with the SBInet system for the Border Patrol to state that the system is working and has borne successes,” the report says. “Further, the department acknowledges that the integrated fixed tower systems are not a commoditized asset.”

The appropriators are also concerned that the networking of the IFTs into a common operating picture (COP) could also present problems as CBP will be doing this. Under SBInet Boeing was responsible for the COP.

The report expects further program delays with the IFTs, citing it as the reason for reducing the budget request.

The appropriators fully funded the $45 million request for the purchase and deployment of technologies along the northern border, pointing out that it is “encouraged by the positive impacts” of these investments in that area so far.