Biden’s pledge to halt border wall construction would save US $2.6bn, Pentagon estimates

By the end of the year, the US government will have built another 450 miles of the wall

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 17 December 2020 17:33
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Joe Biden pledges to stop building Trump's Mexico border wall
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If Joe Biden follows through on his claim that he will stop the construction of the border wall between the US and Mexico, it will save the government approximately $2.6bn.  

The US Army Corps of Engineers reviewed the numbers with the Washington Post.  

Earlier this year, Mr Biden told reporters that he would not build "another foot" of Donald Trump's border wall, which became one of the most expensive federal infrastructure projects in the nation's history.  

If Mr Biden does halt the project, it is unclear what costs would be associated.  

The president-elect's transition team met with commanders from the US Army Corps of Engineers last week to discuss the project.  

A spokesman for the Corps declined to comment on the estimated costs of stopping the project.  

“We cannot speculate on what the final cost estimates for undelivered work would be nor speculate about what actions a White House Administration may or may not take,” Ms Brunson said in a statement.  

Building the wall was a major campaign promise for Mr Trump. Though initially he promised he would make Mexico pay for his wall, ultimately Mr Trump fished the money - $15bn - out of US taxpayer wallets through Congressional appropriations and raiding the operational budgets at the Department of Defense.  

In order to stop the work, Mr Biden's administration would have to terminate or modify contracts with private vendors. While his administration would have the power to do so, the companies affected could send the government a bill for "demobilization," which is meant to cover the costs of removing their crews, equipment and materials from the worksites.  

Estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers suggest that those costs could reach $700m.

In a third option, the Biden administration could stop the expansion of the physical wall, but complete projects that install sensors and build roads along the border, which would prevent the government from incurring additional costs.  

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers. the government would save $1.1bn if it finished the sensor and road project contracts. In contrast, it would cost $1.46bn to just stop the project entirely.  

Thus far, Mr Biden's administration has not commented on which route it might take. The president-elect has made it clear that the wall will not be finished under his administration.  

“Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders,” Mr Biden’s transition plan says. “Instead of stealing resources from schools for military children and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Biden will direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts, like investments in improving screening infrastructure at our ports of entry, that will actually keep America safer.”

US Customs and Border Protection's acting commission, Mark Morgan, does not want to abandon the project, and called it a "waste of taxpayer money."

“There has been talk about quote ‘not building another foot of wall.’ I want to talk about the reality, not the political reality, but the substantive impact, of stopping construction,” Mr Morgan said. “Let’s consider the cost directly to American taxpayers when we walk away, which will probably be billions of dollars that have already been invested and assigned to a contract.”

If left to continue, the CBP is on pace to finish another 450 miles of the wall by the end of the year.  

Thus far most of the wall has been built through public land - including national parks - because the government already controls the land. In border states like Texas - where nearly all land is privately owned - Mr Trump has been met with resistance, as some landowners have been unwilling to have the president's wall running through their property. 

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