Biden Administration Spent Around $2 Bln on Halting Border Wall Construction, Senate Report Finds
23:25 GMT 24.07.2021 (Updated: 23:26 GMT 24.07.2021)
© REUTERS / CALLAGHAN O'HAREA flag flies in front of a section of the border wall ahead of a visit from former U.S. President Donald Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott along the U.S.-Mexico border in Pharr, Texas, 30 June 2021.
© REUTERS / CALLAGHAN O'HARE
On his first day in office, Biden terminated the Trump-era border wall project, which had seen more than 720 km (450 miles) of the wall erected, with hundreds of miles still funded and contracts already in the works. Biden also initiated a review of the federal government's obligations.
The Biden administration has already spent at least $2 billion to halt construction of the southern border wall, despite the ongoing migrant crisis, a report by Republicans on a Senate subcommittee revealed.
A report published earlier this week by the minority staff of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee's Government Operations and Border Management Subcommittee found that efforts to halt or cancel wall construction projects at the Defense Department have cost between $1.8 billion and $2 billion since President Joe Biden's inauguration, and the administration is spending about $3 million every day to continue the freeze.
And the vast part of that money is used to "guard steel, concrete, and other materials in the desert."
"It is absolutely absurd that Americans are paying contractors to guard metal gates that President Biden refuses to install because he wants to ‘study’ the wall," a top Republican in the subcommittee, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said about the report. "Stubbornly refusing to spend money approved for the wall is not ‘executing’ the law. It’s ignoring the law and ignoring the very real national security concerns posed by illegal entry across our very open southern border."
According to the report, Defense Department contractors in charge of overseeing border wall construction received $10 billion in public money in January 2021 during the Trump administration, which had been designated for wall-related projects. By the end of June, the Biden Administration had squandered about 20% of the $10 billion budgeted for the wall to pay contractors.
"These interim findings show that the Biden administration’s efforts to stop border wall construction constitute a significant waste of taxpayer resources," the report said. "As of the drafting of this report, the Biden administration has paid border wall contractors at least $2 billion and counting to not build the border wall."
16 July, 23:42 GMT
On 16 July, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released new border crossing data for June, which included a 20-year high of 188,829 total interactions over a month. The total number of border encounters since January has already topped 900,000. In addition, since September 2020, a total of 95,079 unaccompanied children have been discovered at the border, according to data.
Since Biden's executive order to stop the wall's construction, the Department of Homeland Security has announced a strategy for how to spend money allocated to the wall, and the administration has rerouted resources transferred from Pentagon accounts to the original programs for which they were allotted.
© AP Photo / Eugene GarciaThe sun sets above the U.S.-Mexico border wall, seen in Yuma, Ariz., Wednesday, June 9, 2021.
The sun sets above the U.S.-Mexico border wall, seen in Yuma, Ariz., Wednesday, June 9, 2021.
© AP Photo / Eugene Garcia
The committee discovered that the Defense Department was incurring $6 million a day in "suspension costs" following the order to halt construction, but that this was cut to $3 million after some layoffs. The funds will reportedly be used to fund safety and "site security" measures.
"This means that the federal government is paying contractors on these seven projects $3 million per day to drive out to project sites and guard the unused pallets of steel and other construction materials," the report said.
The Senate study cites Pentagon's estimates from court records to arrive at the $2 billion number. And the authors claim that those "suspension costs" mentioned in the estimates either "significantly undercounted" the daily accrual of $3 million or were not properly included.
"If the daily accrual of $3 million represents a separate cost not accounted in the broader DOD estimate of termination costs, then the total suspension costs will still be significantly higher than the estimate DOD provided to the Biden administration and to the courts," the report explained.
And the total amount spent might be greater than $2 billion, according to the subcommittee, because it does not account for DHS accounts or other costs associated with any of the DOD initiatives.