President Donald Trump’s planned border wall along the Mexican border with the U.S. may cost as much as $21.6 billion to build and can be completed within a relatively short period of just over three-and-a-half years, according to an internal report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in possession of Reuters. The figure of $21.6 billion is a significantly higher figure than the earlier figure of $12 billion cited by President Trump during his presidential campaign. This figure is, in fact, also much higher than the $15 billion price tag set for the border wall by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
According to the Reuters report, this estimate is likely to be presented to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly in the next few days. However, it is up to the Trump administration to take a final call on the actions the report recommends.
This is not the first time that a cost estimate for Trump’s border wall has been floated. This report, however, has been commissioned by Kelly and is part of the final steps before the current administration takes a call and goes forward with requesting U.S. taxpayer funds from Congress to start the construction. When asked about report, a DHS spokesman refused to talk about it.
“The department does not comment on or confirm the potential existence of pre-decisional, deliberative documents.”
A spokesperson from the White House also refused to comment.
Meanwhile, as per the report, the border wall would be built in several phases with the first phase being the easiest and smallest of the lot. In the first phase, the wall will cover a section that would stretch for over 26 miles near San Diego, California; El Paso, Texas; and in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. This first phase is expected to be the least expensive to construct and is expected to cost around $360 million.
In the second phase, the length of the wall would increase with an additional 151 miles of construction around the Rio Grande Valley; Laredo, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Texas, and Big Bend, Texas.
The longest and the most challenging of the phases would be the third phase in which the border wall will stretch for another 1,080 miles. By the end the of the third phase, the entire U.S.-Mexico border will be sealed. Note that the report still does not account for natural barriers like mountains and water bodies. Another thing that could delay the construction of the border wall is the possibility of disputes over land acquisition.
The report also assumes that construction of the wall would commence by September, 2017. Before the construction starts, the DHS will need to get funding from Congress by April or May, following which they will hire contractors to work on the project. The report shows the U.S. government has begun seeking waivers to address environmental laws on building in some areas. It also shows the government has begun working with existing contractors and planning steel purchases for the project. The report also revealed that the U.S. government has started seeking waivers on environmental laws as they start the proceedings to build the wall. This is apart from the fact that the U.S. government also needs to ensure that it does not violate the terms of the International Boundary and Water Commission pact over shared waters — a deal signed between the U.S. and Mexico.
While the construction of the wall will be funded by taxpayer money, Trump has reiterated that he plans to make Mexico pay for the wall — a demand that Mexico has said it will not honor.
Interestingly, the existence of this report comes just a few days after Trump announced that “The wall is getting designed right now.”
[Featured Image By Christian Torres/AP Images]