Wanted: Border walls. Prototype: 30 feet tall preferred. Will consider 18 feet minimum. Concrete or “other” material. Should prevent climbing and tunneling. Must have see-through component. Aesthetically pleasing — at least on the U.S. side.
The Department of Homeland Security issued two requests for proposals Friday night seeking concept papers for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, one for a prototype made of reinforced concrete and another for a wall made of “other” material. Proposals are due March 29, and that will be followed by the selection of bidders and the building of prototypes in San Diego.
The move starts the bidding on President Donald Trump’s signature campaign issue — a wall on the Mexican border — as Congress considers funding requests the administration made Thursday for $1.5 billion this year and $2.6 billion next year to begin building the wall.
It is not clear whether Trump will stick to campaign pledges for a continuous wall on the 2,000-mile border, although Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said he would be looking at a variety of ways to secure the border, including high-tech surveillance.
The issuance of two bid requests suggests that the government is looking at a combination of wall types for the border, much of which is in rural, rugged terrain. In Texas, the border runs along the Rio Grande, a twisting, wild river prone to flash flooding, with two reservoirs with constantly shifting shorelines.
The specifications for the wall, according to the bid requests:
• Physically imposing in height. The government’s preference is for a 30-foot-high wall, but it will consider designs that are at least 18 feet high.
• Not possible for a person to scale the wall unassisted, meaning without the use of a ladder.
• Include anti-climbing features “to prevent scaling using common and more sophisticated climbing aids” such as grappling hooks.
• Should prevent digging or tunneling below it for a minimum of 6 feet below the lowest adjacent grade.
• The north side of the wall “shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.”
The approximately 700 miles of fencing that now exists on the border is made of a variety of materials, depending on the location and terrain, including wire mesh, chain link, sheet piling and corrugated panels.
The documents do not specify where the barriers will be placed, although previous Department of Homeland Security documents have said the initial construction would be near El Paso; Tucson, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif.
As for the cost to build the prototypes, each request for proposal says it “shall not exceed $300,000,000.” The bids will determine how much the wall may cost, but previous estimates have ranged from $15 billion to $25 billion.
The border wall is part of Trump’s larger plans to crack down on illegal entry into the country.
His proposed budget allocates $314 million to hire and train 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees next year.
The administration ultimately wants 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents.
An additional $1.5 billion in the budget proposal would pay to build detention centers for undocumented immigrants and to fund their removal from the country.
Additional material from The New York Times.