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Congress watchdog: Border wall may cost more, take longer

By ELLIOTT SPAGAT
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration’s plans to erect hundreds of miles of barriers along the Mexican border fails to adequately consider costs, a congressional watchdog agency said on Monday, possibly raising the project’s price and causing delays.

The administration has estimated it will cost $18 billion for the construction of 722 miles of barriers. But that was a figure calculated using an average cost for each mile of proposed barrier. The Government Accountability Office said costs can vary considerably depending on the slope and topography of the places where the barrier is to be built, as well as land-acquisition costs and other considerations.

Without more information, the Department of Homeland Security “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,” the GAO wrote.

Customs and Border Protection, an agency within Homeland Security, “does not have complete information to determine whether it is using limited resources in the most cost-effective manner and does not have important cost information that would help it develop future budget requests,” the report continues.

Homeland Security official Jim Crumpacker, in a response included as an appendix to the GAO report, said authorities are “following best practices in evaluating costs, budget, and financial impact of border segments.” He said the project’s likely costs were considered after an operational assessment of where walls were most needed.

Katie Waldman, a Homeland Security Department spokeswoman, said the use of border walls has proved “extremely effective.”

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee who requested the report, said, “In moving too fast, they have ignored necessary and established acquisitions protocols and plan to build a multibillion-dollar border wall where their own analysis shows it is not a priority. To be blunt, this Administration has no clue what it is doing and must be held accountable.”

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