The US Army Corps of Engineers is planning to give companies contracts worth up to $480m to oversee the quality of work on the Mexican border wall after media reported that completed sections had been breached by smugglers using $100 power saws.
The Washington Post was told by US agents that the saws can be fitted with "reciprocating" blades and used to cut through the wall’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes. (Its story was reported here.)Â
The work will include analysis of contractors’ claims, the identification of potential construction issues and material testing.
Work on the border wall, a flagship policy of the Trump administration, has struggled to make progress. This year, Congress has allocated $1.4bn to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry it out, but has declined President Trump’s request for a $5bn allocation in the 2020 DHS budget.
President Trump has used executive authority to reallocate about $8.1bn to wall construction in 2019, including $3.6bn from the Pentagon’s budget. About 114km of the existing 1,000km of barriers had been replaced by the middle of last month, but no new wall has been built along the 3,200km frontier.
When told by reporters about the Washington Post’s story, Trump said: "We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. We have a lot of people watching. Cutting is one thing, but it’s easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it’s very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in."
Photograph: The border wall between San Diego and Tijuana (Humorousking207/Dreamstime.com)