Border security needs a closer look, and better planning

  • 7 August 2018
  • NormanL

With the president saying he's willing to allow the federal government to shut down unless Congress agrees to spend more on border security and construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, this Government Accountability Office report on what's happened with wall construction so far is very useful.

The short version: Customs officials have ordered a number of prototypes, and tested them to see what works best in specific terrain. But there are some big holes in the overall program's planning:

DHS plans to spend billions of dollars developing and deploying new barriers along the southwest border. 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. Without assessing costs when prioritizing locations for future barriers, CBP does not have complete information to determine whether it is using its limited resources in the most cost-effective manner and does not have important cost information that would help it develop future budget requests. Without documenting plans to require CBP to follow the DHS acquisition process for the San Diego barrier segment, DHS may not establish cost, schedule, and performance goals by which it can measure the program’s progress. In addition, Border Patrol should continue to implement our prior recommendations to assess the contributions of existing barriers and technologies deployed along the southwest border and consider this information when making future border security investments.

Without a clear idea of what it already has, what it will need, and what it will all cost, the wall could end up costing more, and taking longer to build, than anyone thinks.

The president made a promise to beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Building a wall remains a popular staple of his speeches. But there's a huge gap between calling for a wall, and getting it done...on time, and on budget.