A project that was flawed in concept now appears to be flawed in execution.

Along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, merchants and mayors condemned the plan to build a border fence, saying it would disrupt the flow of commerce between sister cities such as Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.

A plan to buttress the physical barrier with a virtual fence, including a network of sensors and surveillance equipment mounted on towers, was less controversial.

Ironically, however, the project generating the least opposition is now encountering logistical problems, according to federal officials.

Homeland Security officials have discovered technical problems along a stretch between Tucson and El Paso, an area where the first phase of the virtual fence was to be built.

The problems, most of them involving the use of ”inappropriate” software, surfaced when legislators questioned security officials during a recent House subcommittee hearing, the Washington Post reported.

”While there is clear urgency of the mission, we want to make sure we do this right,” Gregory Giddens, a Homeland Security official, told the Post.

Border security must be a key component of any comprehensive immigration reform package, but officials should have been more careful about proceeding with a solid, reasonable plan.

The virtual fence, originally scheduled for completion by the end of this year, has been pushed back to the end of 2011.

The government has already spent approximately $80 million on the shaky project, with the prospect of millions more to solve the technical glitches.

Immigration reform is a hot-button issue, but there are no quick fixes, and officials do themselves no favors if they rush through projects that require due diligence.

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—San Antonio Express-News