$1.2B Contract Approved for Border Wall

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Last Monday, the United States Department of Defense announced a contract modification worth $524 million for the design build of the Tucson sector barrier wall replacement project in Tucson, Arizona, at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

The contract was awarded to Southwest Valley Constructors (Albuquerque, New 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.

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.

Last month, 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.

Work covered by the waiver includes access roads to and around the designated projects, earthwork, excavation, site preparation, installation and maintenance of barriers, drainage and erosion controls, and safety and security features.

Earlier this month, Customs and Border Protection officials requested public comment on border wall projects slated to take place in Cochise, Pima and Santa Cruz counties in Arizona. The projects are slated to add another 63 miles of border wall and will consist of 30-foot tall steel poles that are 6 inches in diameter.

For the projects, $1.3 billion in contracts were awarded.

Around the same time, DHS Secretary 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.

What’s Happening Now

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration is pushing forward with border wall construction.

However, a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that passed on March 26 no longer allows the transfer of funds to border wall efforts.

CNN specifies, "Notably, while the Pentagon will be allowed to transfer the money to other 'applicable' accounts, it prohibits transferring the money to the counter-drug account, an account which has been used to fund Trump's border wall."

In addition to Southwest Valley Constructors’ $646 million contract awarded last May, the total fixed-price, design-build is just over $1.2 billion. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Phoenix, Arizona, is the contracting activity.

Work for the latest project is slated to be complete by Sept. 7.


Tagged categories: Contract awards; Contractors; Contracts; Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Upcoming projects

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.