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Border Wall Protester Could Stall Contracts

Friday, May 3, 2019

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One border wall contract bidder, a company that did not win the nearly $1 billion in contracts from the latest round of national emergency-appropriated funding, recently filed a protest with the U.S. General Accounting Office criticizing the selection process, calling it flawed. The filing could delay work on these and other border wall contracts.

Fisher Sand & Gravel, the CEO of which claimed just last month that his company could build 234 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall for $1.4 billion, a fraction of the funding the president requested, is the company behind the filing. The Fisher company is protesting the contracts most recently awarded to SLSCO Ltd. and Barnard Construction Co., announced earlier this month.

Border Wall Saga

In September 2017, the first border wall contracts were awarded to four different companies to develop prototypes that would work in conjunction with the border in the San Diego area. U.S. special forces spent weeks attempting to breach the eight prototype models of the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which proved to withstand jackhammers, torches and climbing tools.

tzahiV / Getty Images

One border wall contract bidder, a company that did not win the nearly $1 billion in contracts from the latest round of national emergency-appropriated funding, recently filed a protest with the U.S. General Accounting Office citing grievance against the selection process, calling it flawed. The filing could delay work on these and other border wall contracts.

Since then, the government has worked to speed up the project. In March 2018, 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 October 2018, the U.S. Department of 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 detailed exemptions in Cameron County; another announcement made the following day detailed similar measures for Hidalgo County.

And in December 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the beginning of construction of a series of border wall gates in the Rio Grande Valley sector.

But in January, a report revealed that all eight border wall prototypes, inspected by Trump last March, were susceptible to breaching. Several million in other contracts for other border wall work had also been awarded elsewhere. In March, the border wall prototypes were demolished.

Fisher’s claim toward the end of last month included the wall, paved roads and border technology, along with a warranty.

Complaint Filed

One of the contracts recently awarded was for a $789 million border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and the smaller $187 million design-build contract was for work in Yuma, Arizona. Fisher Sand & Gravel called the solicitation “unique (and highly flawed).” The Fisher company went on to say that the process “effectively suppressed competition and was designed to conduct an artificial process where the end result was known ahead of time” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers essentially choosing two firms as source contractors.

A questionnaire, also at issue, set narrower terms for contractor qualification by asking what work firms had done on the border in the last five years. Fisher Sand & Gravel has filed another lawsuit pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims regarding this as well.

According to CNN, the Army Corps will have to justify its rationale to the GAO and resolve the protest within 100 days. The current slated completion dates, September and October 2020, respectively, may be delayed due to the protest. In the meantime, work on the projects is suspended.

Despite the potential delay, the Army Corps could override the filing on the grounds of national security, though it has not done so as yet.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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