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Pentagon watchdog investigating $400M border wall contract

A K-9 police officer walks past rebar that will make up a section of border wall under construction on Nov. 21 south of Donna, Texas. (The Monitor via AP)

A K-9 police officer walks past rebar that will make up a section of border wall under construction on Nov. 21 south of Donna, Texas. (The Monitor via AP)

By COLLEEN LONG
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department’s internal watchdog is investigating a $400 million border wall contract awarded to a firm that used various appearances on Fox News to push for the job.

The Pentagon’s inspector general sent a letter Thursday to House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson telling him the contract awarded to North Dakota company Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. would be audited. Thompson, D-Miss., asked for the review last week, in part over concerns the proposals did not meet operational requirements and prototypes came in late and over budget.

Tommy Fisher, the head of the family business, said Thursday there would be “nothing to find” in an audit.

The proposed border wall is one of Trump’s top priorities. He campaigned on a promise to build a “big beautiful wall” between the U.S. and Mexico,” said Mexico would pay for it, and promised to build 450 to 500 miles by the end of 2020. Mexico is not paying for the wall and, as of Nov. 1, Trump had built 78 miles.

Fisher was awarded a contract Dec. 2 to build 31 miles of wall in Arizona, part of a series of contracts to push out increased mileage. Fisher had made a number of appearances on Trump’s favorite cable news channel — Fox News — talking about his desire to win a contract. His company, though, has little experience with such construction and a previous proposal was rejected.

Fisher said his company could do the work for $13 million a mile. He said the next closest bid was $20 million a mile. A letter from the Army Corps when Fisher was awarded the contract said the company’s proposal was both technically acceptable, and the best priced.

Two administration officials familiar with the matter told The Associated Press this year that Trump aggressively pushed the Fisher firm’s bid with the heads of Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages wall contracts. The interference in federal contracting by a president was cause for concern to some overseeing the process but, the officials said, Trump insisted Fisher could get the wall up faster and cheaper than other bidders. The officials weren’t authorized to speak about internal discussions and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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