Congress Questions Customs and Border Protection Over Border Wall Construction Contracts

August 28, 2020 by Reece Nations
The U.S. Capitol as seen from the U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – A change in Customs and Border Protection policy that allows the agency to award its own contracts for select U.S.-Mexico border wall construction projects is being questioned by congressional members.

In a letter addressed to acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, Reps. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., expressed concern regarding the policy change. Prior to this change, CBP delegated construction project contracting exclusively to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Thompson is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security while Rice chairs the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations. The letter requests CBP to “halt performance under any contracts it has awarded” and provide the committee justification for the decision by Sept. 10.

Together, the chairs seek an explanation from CBP regarding its decision to award a $290 million contract to Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., which had previously been contracted to construct and submit a prototype concrete border wall in 2017. Although Fisher was “one of the vendors that built an entirely concrete prototype,” CBP contracted the company to “construct approximately 17 miles of border wall in Webb County, Texas” out of “other-than-concrete materials,” the letter noted.

The propriety of the company’s initial contract award is being audited by the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General, according to the office’s website. Thompson and Rice’s letter to CBP also made note of “significant quality issues” with portions of the border wall previously built by Fisher on private land in Sunland Park, N.M., and Mission, Texas, as reported by The Nation.

The information requested in the chairs’ letter includes a rationalization for CBP’s decision to start awarding contracts, an explanation of the agency’s methodology in awarding these contracts and the reasoning behind “why CBP has decided to restrict competition to those vendors awarded contracts to build barrier prototypes.” The chairs asked the agency to provide detailed cost-benefit, market research and other analyses used to determine contract recipients in the letter.

In addition, the chairs’ requested CBP furnish a copy of the agency’s acquisition plan and decision memorandum, copies of “all solicitations and contracts” CBP awarded for wall projects since Jan. 2020, and evidence of a quality assurance plan. 

“Fisher’s selection raises questions about how CBP is soliciting and awarding border wall construction contracts,” the text of the letter read. “For example, it is unclear why CBP is restricting bids to those vendors that received contracts in 2017 to build barrier prototypes, especially since none of the prototype designs are being constructed.”

“This approach is counter to acquisition best practices of promoting full and open competition and opportunities for small businesses,” the letter continued. “We also have concerns about CBP’s capacity to properly oversee contractor performance.”

Congress

Social Media Executives Advocate Against More Government Regulation
Social Media
Social Media Executives Advocate Against More Government Regulation
October 29, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The chief executive officers of the world’s largest social media companies assured a skeptical U.S. Senate committee Wednesday they try to remain neutral in deciding which Internet content they block. They also advocated against government regulation that could interfere with free speech on the... Read More

Counties Outline Priorities While Awaiting Infrastructure Bill
County News
Counties Outline Priorities While Awaiting Infrastructure Bill
October 27, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Americans rely on public infrastructure like buildings, roads, bridges, and power supply lines every day. Some of the groundworks needed to operate society are handled by the federal government, some maintained by states, and a large portion owned and operated by the nation’s 3,141... Read More

Pelosi, White House Say Each 'Moving the Goalposts' on Stimulus
Economy
Pelosi, White House Say Each 'Moving the Goalposts' on Stimulus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber could pass a pandemic relief plan this week, though a deal with the White House remains elusive and the Republican-led Senate might not act before the Nov. 3 U.S. election. Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows accused each other of "moving the goalposts" on stimulus legislation in back-to-back... Read More

Murphy and Waltz Request Briefing from FBI Over Election Interference
2020 Elections
Murphy and Waltz Request Briefing from FBI Over Election Interference
October 23, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

Yesterday, Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Michael Waltz, R-Fla., sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe and Attorney General Bill Barr requesting an official briefing on Russian and Iranian interference in the 2020 election. The request... Read More

Bipartisan Policy Center Hosts MOCs on Rural Broadband, Telehealth Discussion
Congress
Bipartisan Policy Center Hosts MOCs on Rural Broadband, Telehealth Discussion
October 23, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C, hosted Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. and Dave Joyce, R-Ohio,  for a discussion of rural broadband access in connection with telehealth and education. The discussion was part of the American Congressional Exchange Program from... Read More

Coronavirus Relief Package Might Not Get Done Before Election Day, Pelosi Suggests
Congress
Coronavirus Relief Package Might Not Get Done Before Election Day, Pelosi Suggests

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised doubts Thursday about getting a coronavirus aid bill passed before the Nov. 3 elections, even if a bipartisan deal is reached in the coming days. While talks continue, she said it would take time to get a comprehensive bill written and reviewed by budget... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top