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Border Wall Prototypes Damaged with Tools

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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A recently revealed report indicates that all eight border wall prototypes, inspected by President Donald J. Trump in March 2018, are susceptible to breaching. Trump has chosen a steel bollard fence design for additions to the border wall.

According to NBC News, testing conducted by the Department of Homeland Security showed that all prototypes, including the steel slat design, were vulnerable to damage from easily accessible tools. For example, the steel slat prototype could be cut through with a saw.

Border Wall Saga Recap

In September 2017, the first border wall prototype contracts were awarded to four different companies to develop prototypes that would work in conjunction with the border in the San Diego area. Contracts originally went to: Caddell Construction Co. (DE) LLC, Montgomery, Alabama; Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., DBA Fisher Industries, Tempe, Arizona; Texas Sterling Construction Co., Houston, Texas; and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, Philadelphia, Mississippi. Contracts for wall protypes to be made with alternative materials went to: Caddell Construction Co. (DE) LLC; W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company; KWR Construction Inc., of Sierra Vista, Arizona; and ELTA North America Inc., of Annapolis Junction, Maryland.

In January 2018, U.S. special forces spent weeks attempting to breach the eight prototype models. Since then, the government has worked to speed up the project, including in October, when Homeland Security announced that any environmental regulations regarding the construction or repair of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall for certain areas in Texas would be waived, drawing ire from environmentalists and private property owners alike. The announcement, made Oct. 10 on the Federal Register, detailed exemptions in Cameron County; another announcement made the following day detailed similar measures for Hidalgo County.

In March, Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that the Department of Homeland Security was not overstepping its bounds by expediting border wall construction and waiving environmental rules in the process. The suit had threatened to stall work in Calexico, where a stretch of fence is being replaced, and to delay the larger border-wall project. Otherwise, several hundred million in border wall contracts have been awarded to date.

In late November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the beginning of construction of a series of border wall gates in the Rio Grande Valley sector. A judge also ruled that  Trump’s administration was clear to move forward with construction of replacement fence and several border-wall prototypes.

Report Revealed

Photos of the damage were not included in the redacted version of the February 2018 CBP report. DHS spokesperson Katie Waldman noted that the steel bollard design was based on “the operational requirements of the United States Border Patrol,” adding that the design had been refined over a decade of use. Though the steel bollard fence currently under construction was guided by what was learned from the prototypes, it does not replicate the other designs.

"The steel bollard design is internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution. In the event that one of the steel bollards becomes damaged, it is quick and cost-effective to repair,” Waldman said.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Testing + Evaluation

Comment from Jeffrey Smith, (1/15/2019, 8:39 AM)

Tools = Cutting Torch

Comment from Tony Rangus, (1/15/2019, 10:05 AM)

Would hate to use an oxy-fuel cutting torch if the "internally reinforced with materials" is concrete or concrete like - OUCH!!

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/15/2019, 11:33 AM)

Gas powered cut-off / chop saw with the right abrasive disc will make fairly short work of the reinforced steel slat wall shown...person sized hole in only a few minutes. Unless you know they are coming and/or have monitoring and rapid response for the entire length of the wall, there won't be a lot of time to "affect a successful enforcement resolution."

Comment from Peter V Walker, (1/15/2019, 12:06 PM)

Those steel slates haven't been cut by a saw. More likely a gas axe was used. Gas cutting equipment isnt something your average border crosser would have on them.

Comment from Scott Sammons, (1/16/2019, 4:27 AM)

Prisoners have breached much stronger barriers with less for years. The crisis described by the President would have funding drug cartels, the same people who attacked and killed foreign supreme courts, mayors, governors etc. Cutoff saws not out of reach, former workers have plenty of skills since destruction is always easier than creation. A hardened barrier wall is much more daunting than it sounds. Add that there is 750mi of existing fence that the executive office believes to be in need of upgrade, 30' tall on 1 2" centers the proposed project would be huge, 2 ,000mi total border. I am surprised that there seems to have been little consideration for pile driven bollards, the examples shown publicly are all trench footing fences which can be much costlier. I do wonder how many bridges will fail from underfunded infrastructure while boarder fences are upgraded. I like bridges better, but I only inspect or build I do not set priorities.

Comment from Mario Colica, (1/16/2019, 11:40 AM)

Only a note of joke : a part from the damages made by saw ,disc and so on ; did some one consider : RUST which is the silent ennemy of the steelbarriers?

Comment from Christine Gunsaullus, (1/17/2019, 7:50 AM)

Mario, I'm right there with you. Once installed, there's an ongoing maintenance cost forever that nobody is discussing, and would likely be 1/3 of the initial cost of the wall every 20 years. That's a lot of money, every 20 years.

Comment from Tony Munson, (1/17/2019, 12:53 PM)

2018 cost of the Border Patrol + ICE + Immigration Courts = over $22 billion and growing fast. Over 800,000 cases are now backlogged in the Immigration much money will that whopper cost ? Over 10,000 'unaccompanied minors' currently being detained, but will be released into the country. Medical costs, criminal justice system costs, public education costs are all through the roof. President Obama's own head of the Border Patrol said several walls were built during his time at that job and they definitely worked. Border Patrol leaders and rank and file all support the need for barriers. More and more of the same thing we're doing now won't work any better than our current border control is working...which is poorly.

Comment from Chuck Michael, (1/18/2019, 7:26 AM)

Tony Munson, if the walls worked, then why do we have such a crisis now? Net immigration is currently near zero. And the cost of border enforcement will not go away because we build a fence. How many times does it have to be said, the extreme majority of illegal immigration comes through ports of entry (airports, ports). The wall is a complete political boondoggle. Waste of time, political will and tax dollars.

Comment from T W, (1/18/2019, 8:47 AM)

Build that wall!

Comment from Tony Munson, (1/18/2019, 9:17 AM)

Chuck...there are a few new caravans lining up right now and if they end up getting in, there will be many more to follow. As they say "Success breeds success". Illegal entry is spiking big time right now...2000 per day in November ? More to the point...the people working for the Border Patrol know far, far better than anyone else alive what is needed to control the border and they've been extremely clear how much the wall is needed. Even President Obama's own head of the Border Patrol says that during his time on the job plenty of barriers were built, they worked, and that we 'absolutely' need to continue with that process. Again...a guy that knows more about the border that any Washington politician or any of us on this website. If I need a water tank blasted and coated, I'd rely on what the experts in the business tell me. Same attitude regarding the border. The Washington hacks saying no walls are needed refuse to speak with or listen to any of those experts, so their opinions really don't amount to very much at all to a rational mind.

Comment from Terry Smith, (1/19/2019, 12:51 PM)

Well said Tony!!!

Comment from Jerry Trevino, (1/21/2019, 12:52 PM)

Walls of any type design and materials of construction will require maintenance and some portions will be breached. I say give Trump the money which is very small relative to the amount of federal spending and open the government. Regardless of Wall or NO Wall half of the population is will not be satisfied. Should every 5 Billion dollar expense be scrutinized to this extent, we will save a lot of money and get nothing done. I believe we are still funding the Y2K project and many other ridiculous programs. Lets use some of that money.

Comment from Tony Munson, (1/28/2019, 9:24 AM)

Chuck...during fiscal year 2018 there were 396,579 apprehensions of illegal border crossers at the southern border, according to DHS statistics. Not a puny number.

Comment from Chuck Michael, (1/29/2019, 7:49 AM)

In a nation of 325,000,000 people, 396,579 is puny. And again, they did not all come in over the southern border. New migrant caravans are a political scare tactic, I for one will not give into fear ginned up by political forces. Facilitate a workable worker visa program and an accessible path to citizenship and these migrants become productive tax paying citizens. Walls will not be effective, easily defeated by ladders or tunnels. Increased funding for more agents would be more effective. The idea that we are being overrun is just wildly exaggerated.

Comment from Patrick Timpe, (1/30/2019, 11:37 AM)

Cor-Ten, generically referred to as weathering steel requires nearly zero maintenance. The photos appear to show Cor-Ten steel tube sections with concrete infill. I'm not a chemist and don't know what happens when one so inclined uses an oxy-fuel cutting torch on such materials. But for the illegal using such and there is some negative chemical reaction, quite frankly I say so be it. Perhaps there will be warning signs in Spanish to forewarn such persons trying to breach the barrier from the Mexico side not to use a cutting torch or they may be injured or killed. "Just sayin" :-)

Comment from Lou Lyras, (1/31/2019, 9:46 AM)

A wall is not the answer. There are so many important issues to fix. But I will give my opinion on the “wall.” ? Send aid to countries in trouble. ? Establish safe zones for immigrants until they can enter our country legally or return to their home country safely. ? Add more border patrols, immigration lawyers, immigration judges, and officials who can process asylum cases. ? Decriminalize all drugs to stop the flow of drugs into our country. This would cut funding of the drug cartels that have killed so many people on both sides of the border. ? Make trade agreements that are fair to workers on both sides of the border – and not only corporations. ? Provide working permits for the millions of undocumented workers who have been here for decades and are exploited in an underground economy that only benefits the companies that exploit them. Maybe if we do the above the “wall” would be smaller.

Comment from Warren Brand, (2/1/2019, 8:17 AM)

Not sure how this turned into a political debate - but I'm concerned about the development of the wall from a corrosion perspective. As Patrick pointed out, it looks like weathering steel. My only questions is how weathering steel performs below-grade. My understanding is that type of steel needs to experience cyclical wet and dry. Will having it below grade having a negative impact? And what about at the riser section - the transitional area a few induces above and below grade. And, to the editors, not sure that you're doing PaintSquare any service allowing a political debate on a technical platform. IMHO, it reduces the overall technical credibility of the brand.

Comment from Tony Munson, (2/1/2019, 10:01 AM)

Warren...Fine point about this actually being a 'technical platform' and not a political one. But people are people. And while I always enjoy reading the real world opinions of what appears to me to be a pretty smart group of people...I can tell you that as a non-'technical' person, I have learned quite a bit from the 'technical' comments that I've read on possible wall construction, despite the political opinion add ins. Building a wall down there should be a decision made by the experts from the Border Patrol and the DHS. But 'how to build a wall' decisions need to be discussed by people as technically wise as the people listed in the previous comments on this topic.

Comment from Ghodsieh Tehrani, (2/1/2019, 1:03 PM)

Well said Warren, Cor-Ten, generically referred to as weathering steel needs to experience cyclical wet and dry. It also requires maintenance.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (2/4/2019, 11:44 AM)

Agreed, needs its wet/dry cycles, so I'm not sure how it would do near to below grade. Also, based on the removal of a pedestrian bridge I know of locally, concrete reinforced Cor-Ten can be readily sliced into with an abrasive blade...the small slats shown in the photo would be susceptible to damage / destruction in this manner.

Comment from trevor neale, (2/5/2019, 9:06 AM)

Regarding corrosion, I believe it will found that the low RH and precipitation levels along the borders areas in Texas, Arizona and California do not merit too much attention to the subject.

Comment from Paul Hayles, (3/6/2019, 8:58 AM)

As to paying for the Wall & Maintenance I say add a fee to the money they send back to their country.

Comment from john lienert, (12/23/2019, 6:45 AM)

"green-cards" worked well................before chavez ruined that for his own people

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