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Border Wall Construction Progresses

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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Earlier this month, Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, reported that roughly a mile of border wall is being built every day. Otherwise, 22 archaeological sites in Arizona remain under threat due to the project.

According to the Military Times, all $2.5 billion in funding is largely currently on contract, awarded mostly during April and May for the construction of 129 miles of border wall in New Mexico, Arizona and California. A $3 million total has yet to be assigned under contract, however.

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.

Since then, the government has worked to speed up the project. 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 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 President Donald J. 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.

Toward the end of May, a judge blocked Trump’s use of money originally intended for military funding, for work on the border wall. The injunction only accounted for roughly $1 billion in funding for the border wall, money that the Department of Defense had funneled away from Army personnel to the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier in the summer, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in funding for the border wall.

However, earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved $3.6 billion in funding—largely pulled from military construction projects, including housing—to go toward building 175 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Shortly after, the Pentagon released a list of the projects that have been financially deferred.

Recent Developments

In the recent announcement from the DoD, Hoffman noted that the Department of Homeland Security has the leading say on which sections of the wall get built first. Some of the property where construction is occurring belongs to the Department, but other areas are being transferred from the interior to the DoD.

“We’re relying on border patrol agents on the ground, the people who have the most knowledge, to tell us where the border wall should be built,” Hoffman said.

According to Popular Mechanics, the archaeological sites under threat by the border wall project are located in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The report indicates that existing vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing would be replaced completely along the park’s southern boundary, with a new, continuous 9.1-meter-tall (30-foot-tall), steel bollard fence, undergirded by a 2.44- to 3.04-meter-deep concrete and steel foundation.

The Quitobaquito Spring, one of the sites under threat, has artifacts that date back roughly 16,000 years, and is also the home to a number of endangered species. Though border patrol officials have said that no groundwater wells will be built within five miles of the area, damage is still reportedly likely.  

   

Tagged categories: Department of Defense (DOD); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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