The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reportedly slated to begin construction this summer on border wall prototypes. This flies in the face of Trump critics who've insisted that the president's vow to construct a border wall will never be realized. The Hill reports:
Agency officials said at a news briefing that the department is ready to begin testing designs on land that is already owned by the government. Four to eight designs will be built and tested, but officials didn't say when the process would actually begin.
“We own that land, have access to it and it’s a good place to start testing in a real-world environment,” acting deputy commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello told reporters at the briefing.
Funding for Trump's border wall was not included in the budget submitted by the White House for fiscal year 2018, but DHS has allocated $20 million from other programs to pay for the prototypes.
Designs for the wall should be at least 18 feet high and have features to prevent climbing over and tunneling beneath the structure, and vendors are instructed to make the designs "aesthetically pleasing" on the U.S. side.
An April report in the San Diego Tribune notes that the Trump administration has vowed to forge ahead with or without funding:
Prototypes, to be built in San Diego across from an impoverished Tijuana neighborhood, will go up this summer no matter what happens in the budget debate this week, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Carlos Diaz said Wednesday.
President Donald Trump is in a heated battle in Washington, D.C., to include border wall funding in 2017’s fiscal year budget. Members of his administration have indicated he would be willing to push for funding later in the year, but the president has gone on Twitter to criticize “fake media” reports that he was changing his position on the border wall.
Diaz said $20 million has already been allocated by Congress to pay for the prototypes, and help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for architecture and engineering support.
“At this point our plans have not changed, we are still tracking towards summer 2017,” Diaz said of the prototypes, which must be 30 feet tall, can’t be climbed and constructed to prevent digging below the wall for at least 6 feet.
He said the government will pay for the construction of four to eight prototypes. Roughly 460 companies replied to requests for proposals to build the wall prototypes, including 23 in San Diego County.
According to the Washington Post, Customs and Border Protection officials claim that hundreds of bids have been submitted, but that they've yet to settle on a vendor. It is also likely, however, that mainstream outlets will continue to downplay any news about the the prototype construction if and when it does commence.