Planning mistakes mean Trump’s border wall could be pricier and less effective
President Donald Trump is gearing up to fight Congress over the funding of his proposed border wall — and now a new government report is claiming his administration’s actions could further hike the controversial wall’s cost.
A report released Monday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that because of some key slip-ups by the Trump administration, the border wall could potentially be more expensive, less effective and take longer to complete than originally anticipated.
“[The Department of Homeland Security] plans to spend billions of dollars developing and deploying new barriers along the Southwest border,” the report stated. “However, by proceeding without key information on cost, acquisition baselines and the contributions of previous barrier and technology deployments, DHS faces an increased risk that the Border Wall System Program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned or not fully perform as expected.”
The report specifically criticized U.S. Customs and Border Protection for strategizing how to install future barriers on the border without considering the associated costs, such as the topography or land ownership of a particular location. The GAO also noted the administration wasn’t, as required, documenting its plans for a “secondary barrier segment” in San Diego, which could lead to “schedule slips and cost growth.”
Additionally, the GAO reported the CBP has not yet been able to “fully assess surveillance technologies and their impact on border security operations,” which could affect how the administration evaluates the contributions of already existing barriers and technologies along the border.
The GAO noted the DHS has “concurred” with the report’s recommendations and has “described actions planned to address them.”
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), one of the members of Congress who commissioned the report, said the findings demonstrate the Trump administration is “rushing the construction” of the border wall.
“To be blunt, this administration has no clue what it is doing and must be held accountable,” Thompson said in a statement. “Since DHS picked locations for the president’s wall before taking into account effectiveness or cost, any more spending on Trump’s wall would be a giant waste of taxpayer money and may not provide any measurable security benefit. At this point, spending billions on the president’s wall is just a gift to contractors and the president’s political base.”
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), who also requested the report, said in a statement the Trump administration was “gambling taxpayer money while operating on incomplete information” and “put almost zero thought into the construction of this wall other than how it will play in the news cycle.”
The increased costs cited in the GAO report would balloon the border wall’s already potentially exorbitant price. Estimates of the wall’s price tag have varied; while Trump himself initially pegged the cost at $12 billion — and claimed Mexico would pay for it — the DHS later projected it would cost $21.6 billion. A separate report issued by Senate Democrats in April 2017 put the price even higher, approximating the cost of construction at $70 billion and annual maintenance at $150 million.
Border funding has become a contentious point for Trump and Congress ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline for 2019’s government spending. The House of Representatives has earmarked $5 billion for border wall funding in its draft of a Homeland Security funding bill, while the Senate’s version includes only $1.6 billion for the wall.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration formally requested $1.6 billion in border wall funding for 2019 — but administration officials “have since quietly raised that to about $2.2 billion.” Trump later asked for $5 billion in private talks with lawmakers, the Post reported.
Trump has already threatened dire consequences if he doesn’t get his way, tweeting in July that he would shut down the government over his border security agenda, including the wall and other immigration proposals.
“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump said at a July 30 press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “We’re the laughingstock of the world.”