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$569M Awarded for Border Wall Construction

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Border District has recently announced the award of a $569 million contract modification to BFBC LLC, a subsidiary of Barnard Construction (Bozeman, Montana), for the construction of approximately 17.17 miles of border wall in San Diego and El Centro, California.

The project is being executed by USACE—as directed through the U.S. Army by the Secretary of Defense and in support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection—as a response to Department of Homeland Security’s request for assistance to help secure the border between the United States and Mexico.

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.

tzahiV / Getty Images

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Border District has recently announced the award of a $569 million contract modification to BFBC LLC, a subsidiary of Barnard Construction (Bozeman, Montana), for the construction of approximately 17.17 miles of border wall in San Diego and El Centro, California.

Through the course of late 2018 and into 2019, construction began on section of border wall gates in the Rio Grande Valley sector, with several million in border wall contracts being awarded for work elsewhere.

In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shortlisted 12 contractors—including Southwest Valley Constructors Co.—to bid on construction work sometime during the next five years; the Pentagon moved $1.5 billion to assist with border wall construction; and a previously contested contract, worth $187 million, has been canceled due to the protest.

By mid-2019, a judge blocked the president’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.

In September, 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 border wall. At the end of that same 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.

Additionally, in November, Trump allowed for construction to begin on a section of the wall in Texas without customary environmental reviews. December also saw funding stemming from canceled military projects being assigned to three new contracts for the construction of over 30 miles of replacement fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, totaling $316 million in work.

At the beginning of January, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based out of New Orleans, ruled 2-1 that a certain set of Department of Defense funding could be used for border wall construction and lifted the injunction. The Washington Post reports that due to this ruling, the president and his administration viewed the matter as an invitation to take money again in 2020.

By the end of the month, President Trump announced plans to divert $7.2 billion of military funds—roughly five times what Congress authorized to spend in the 2020 budget from Pentagon funding—for border wall construction. According to the plans, the diverted funds would allow the government to complete an additional 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, approximately 376 more miles than the administration had slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.

In February, a waiver made by the Department of Homeland Security's Acting Director Chad Wolf went into effect, surrendering certain procurement laws as to expedite construction on portions of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

According to reports, companies that are eligible to work under the waiver are those that were shortlisted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers back in May to bid on construction work sometime during the next five years. The contracts are worth up to $5 billion total and will include both design-build and design-bid-build projects.

The following month, Wolf issued several waivers, allowing the Department of Defense to assist with border wall construction, in addition to exempting additional projects from traditional environmental regulations.

The same month, another contract modification worth $524 million was awarded to Southwest Valley Constructors (Albuquerque, New Mexico) for the design build of the Tucson sector barrier wall replacement project in Tucson, Arizona. Work for the project is expected to be completed by Sept. 7.

By the end of March, a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package was reported to no longer allow the transfer of funds to border wall efforts.

However, at the beginning of April, SLSCO (Galveston, Texas) was awarded a $61.4 million contract modification for border wall construction near El Paso, Texas. The deal amends a contract originally awarded in April 2019 and extends the target completion date from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

As a response to the continued border wall construction, several Democratic lawmakers penned a letter to the Trump administration, requesting a halt on the various projects as to save resources for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Of the billions this Administration diverted from the Department of Defense, hundreds of millions were meant for emergency and disaster responses for National Guard units across the country,” read the letter.

"We urge you to stop wasting critical federal resources and putting the lives of the millions who call the border region home at grave risk during this unprecedented health crisis and immediately cease all construction efforts.”

What’s Happening Now

Adding to its original $141.7 million contract—awarded last May for work in California and Arizona— BFBC LLC will now build roughly 17 more miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to completing vehicle and pedestrian barriers in El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

Work for the modified contract is expected to be complete by June 30, while previous barrier endeavors are slated to wrap up by Jan. 31, 2021.

According to United Press International, neither the letter penned earlier this month or a recent judge’s ruling for lawsuits opposing the wall to proceed, have affected the awarded contracts.


Tagged categories: Contract awards; Contracts; Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Project Management; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Upcoming projects

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