The US Customs and Border Protection agency has posted guidelines for people to make proposals for building the wall across the US-Mexico border, the “big, beautiful” magical wall that is going to stop all drugs, crime, and terrorist attacks in the US and make America great again, so that it is well worth gutting programs like providing meals to shut-in seniors to pay for it.
The agency provided 11 threshold requirements for the wall, which it says “shall be physically imposing in height.” The wall needs to be 30 feet tall — although “heights of at least 18 feet may be acceptable” — and it should prevent tunneling by going at least 6 feet below ground
The wall, it adds, should be difficult for getting over and offer features that prevent “sophisticated climbing aids,” such as grappling hooks and building handholds.
Prototypes will also need to prove that they aren’t susceptible to a “physical breach” via a “sledgehammer, car jack, pick axe, chisel, battery operated impact tools, battery operating cutting tools, Oxy/acetylene torch or other similar hand-held tools,” the CBP document says.
Potential contractors also need to keep an eye toward style, as the north side of the wall, or U.S.-facing side, “shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.” There are no specifications for the Mexico-facing side of the wall.
The proposals also require that using the above listed tools, the wall should require a minimum of one hour to make a hole one foot in diameter. Requiring a minimum of one hour to break through does not seem like much of a delay that will deter determined people. I am not sure why Trump expects those who seek to make holes in it to only use tools that you can buy at a local hardware store. It seems like with the easy availability of dynamite, rocket propelled grenades, and even heavier weaponry, it should be easy to blast much bigger hole in far less time, seconds even, since drug smugglers are not likely to pay attention to CBP rules. I can well imagine that making holes in the wall becomes some kind of game. And I doubt that the Mexican authorities are going to be particularly vigilant about monitoring their side of the border.
The proposal request also requires that the side facing the US “shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.” That seems wrong. The city commission that approves fences in our community requires the person putting up a fence to have the aesthetically pleasing side facing the neighbor’s yard. Mexico might demand that since the US is putting up the wall, the nice side should be facing them. Does the World Trade Organization that adjudicates disputes between nations deal with zoning issues?
Now that we have some details, expect the cost estimates to come in.
The government has not said where the wall will be built, though the contract notices suggest some pieces of a new wall could replace existing fencing that stretches over about 700 miles of the roughly 2,000-mile border. The current fencing of mixed construction, including 15-foot steel posts set inches apart that are designed to keep people from crossing and shorter posts that are intended to block cars. Border Patrol agents are constantly repairing holes in the structure.
This week the president sent a budget proposal to Congress that included a $2.6 billion down payment for the wall. The total cost for the project is unclear, but the Government Accountability Office estimates it would cost about $6.5 million a mile for fence to keep pedestrians from crossing the border and about $1.8 million a mile for a vehicle barrier.
Congressional Republicans have said Trump’s wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion and Trump has suggested $12 billion.
An internal report prepared for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly estimated the cost of building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border at about $21 billion, according to a U.S. government official who is involved in border issues.
I expect the final cost to be well over the $21 billion estimate, though probably less than the $2 trillion that Stephen Colbert’s panel of architects, engineers, concrete suppliers, and designers estimated. They also present some of the problems that the builders will encounter. And Mexico is not going to pay for it.