Construction began Tuesday September 25 in San Diego on eight prototypes of a proposed southern border wall, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced, with the six contractors chosen by the federal government expected to complete work within the next 30 days.
CBP selected four models comprising concrete and four comprising “other materials,” the latter with the intent of having a “see-through” component, less than a month ago. The choices were made after a solicitation for proposals that was issued in March.
“We are committed to securing our border, and that includes constructing border walls,” said Ronald Vitiello, CBP’s acting deputy commissioner. “Our multi-pronged strategy to ensure the safety and security of the American people includes barriers, infrastructure, technology, and people.”
The prototyping process has received little public attention but represents the most tangible example of the Trump administration pursuing an actual “wall” as he described it on the campaign trail. Congress has appropriated funds this year to repair southern border barriers using previously approved designs, but these structures are better described as “fences.”
Which is not to say the president hasn’t called them “walls,” anyway, as he did during a rally in Phoenix last month. “We have walls. I don’t know if you know: We’re already starting to fix a lot of the walls we already have,” he said. Given the context, it was all but certain he was referring to a May government spending bill that funded “previously deployed and operationally effective designs, such as currently deployed steel bollard designs,” for certain stretches of fence in disrepair.
Besides this, the administration and some congressional Republicans have entertained games of chicken over inserting wall money in must-pass appropriations legislation butting up against funding deadlines. Instead, they continue to wing it: Trump and Democratic leadership recently struck a three-month stopgap measure forestalling any such showdown until December, even though the president has insisted repeatedly that a spending bill include federal dollars specifically for a “wall.”
Not Trump, the White House, Congress, or wall advocates have had an idea what that wall could resemble. Former administration press secretary Sean Spicer explained the bollard and “levy” wall designs cited in the May appropriations legislation during a briefing, but neither met the ambitious standards the president has spitballed at various times. In July, he said he envisioned 700 to 900 miles of barrier the human eye could “see through.”
The prototypes CBP solicited called for a wall about 30 feet tall, one made of concrete and the other incorporating potentially alternate materials with a see-through component.
Considering the timing, the prototypes should be completed before the next expiration of government funding near the end of the calendar year. According to CBP, they “will inform future design standard(s) which will likely continue to evolve to meet (U.S. Border Patrol) requirements.”
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