Federal government questioning new report regarding cost to keep border secure

(Source: KGBT Photo)

A newly released report has the Federal Government questioning how expensive will it be to keep America's border secure.

The report conducted by the Government Accountability Office says Customs and Border Protection has not done enough research to fully conclude building a wall throughout our borders, including the Rio Grande Valley.

The study was conducted from October 2017 until June 2018 and states, 'We found that CBP had not assessed the impact of tactical infrastructure, fencing, gates, roads, bridges, lighting and drainage infrastructure on border security operations or missions goals."

In the 45-page report, GAO officials say because of lack of planning, the wall may cost more, take longer to build and not fully perform as expected.

It mentions 25 miles of border wall would be built in the Rio Grande Valley throughout Hidalgo and Starr County, totaling $445 million dollars.

The study shows in 2019, another $1.6 billion dollars has been requested for another 65 miles in the RGV in the next spending bill.

Something Congressman Henry Cuellar thinks won't stop any illegal crossings.

"All I need is $100 and I will buy a ladder that will get me over that fence, so you can spend millions of dollars and a $100 ladder is going to get rid of that rationale," said Rep. Cuellar.

However, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection disagrees.

In a statement released to CBS 4, CBP said, "CBP knows from experience that walls work. Where we have invested in wall system, barriers, technology, infrastructure and additional agents, there have been significant decreases in illegal border crosses and decreases in the flow of illicit drugs."

Which is true, according to Border Patrol data. In Fiscal Year 2017, agents apprehended 304,000 undocumented immigrants, a decrease from the 409,000 that were captured in Fiscal Year 2016.

So border wall or not, is there a cheaper way to keep our borders secure?

Several different types of barriers were researched as an alternative, but they were not considered acceptable because of breaching, scaling, accountability and other determining factors.

Cuellar says the report proves the Trump Administration is pushing for a wall without looking at key factors impacting tax payers.

"We want that wall is what Trump is saying so they're being pressured, rushed to do certain things and we are seeing now that if you leave out factors, the cost of the taxpayer is going to be tremendous," said Cuellar.

The report recommends CBP make better use of their existing walls and focus on using technology along the border. The report also says border technology would come to the RGV as concrete pads would be added with surveillance cameras to be able to watch illegal activity.

DHS, CBP and the GAO say in the report they are working together to ensure what they are doing is most cost efficient and safe for our borders.

Below is the full statement released by CBP.

“CBP knows from experience that walls work. Where we have invested in wall system, barriers, technology, infrastructure, and additional agents, there have been significant decreases in illegal border crossers and decreases in the flow of illicit drugs. DHS remains committed to ensuring that investments in border wall system are effective and that procurement processes are efficient, transparent, and compliant with Federal law and DHS policy.”

“The GAO report is being misinterpreted and the complexity of the border wall program is not being taken into account. The report contains two recommendations, both of which DHS concurred with, and DHS is confident that actions already taken have met the intent of both recommendations. As such, DHS has requested that GAO close the recommendations.”

“Further, the GAO report clearly states that “the prioritization methodology was not intended to assess costs but rather to identify Border Patrol’s operational priorities” and that CBP produced a report to Congress that included an “overall estimate of the cost to construct” the top priorities. CBP stands firm that operational needs should always be primary, followed by cost analysis of the prioritized border wall segments and will recommend necessary investments that meet border security requirements to prevent unlawful entry and take into account both the costs and benefits. To that end, the report we have provided Congress recommends wall system as part of our integrated capabilities only for those areas where it will make a significant operational impact. We will continue to pursue a balanced approach that first looks at the operational priorities based on risks/threats, and then conducts a financial analysis to optimize a solution within an area.”

A copy of the GAO report can be found here.

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