WASHINGTON - The U.S. government has put out a call for proposals to build a wall along the border with Mexico that President Donald Trump ordered as one of his first official acts after the inauguration.
The request for proposals issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency are a first step toward the multibillion-dollar wall project.
The agency is seeking bids from designers and builders who are prepared to erect prototypes of their wall plans of a reduced size and total area of about 10 square meters each, which would be used to make a final decision later this year about how the wall would be built and by whom.
Specifications for the finished product, as described in the official documents, make clear that the wall will be a massive construction project. The government is asking for a 9-meter-high concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground, built to be "physically imposing" and capable of resisting almost any attack, "by sledgehammer, car jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch."
'A big, beautiful wall'
Trump, who as a candidate made the Mexican border wall one of his main campaign themes, said he wanted "a big, beautiful wall," and the government's request for bids reflected that wish, declaring the completed project should be "aesthetically pleasing" — at least on the north or U.S.-facing side of the wall.
Two detailed requests for proposals were issued Friday, each more than 130 pages long. One was for a solid concrete barrier, the other called for a similar structure containing see-through openings, apparently for border guards' use. The specifications noted that under certain circumstances, likely affected by local topography, some portions of the finished wall could be shorter than 9 meters.
Both walls would have to incorporate features to prevent anyone from scaling the barrier or attaching grappling hooks to its summit, and both also were required to incorporate electronically controlled gates for vehicles and pedestrians.
First step calls for scale models
Customs and Border Protection said it intends to award multiple contracts based on responses to its request statement, but noted the aggregate awards would not surpass $300 million. The agency previously called for would-be bidders to submit concept designs by March 10, but it was not clear whether any were submitted.
The prototypes, or scaled-down sample walls, are to be built in Southern California, close to the Mexican border in the U.S. city of San Diego.
The entire U.S.-Mexico border covers 3,200 kilometers, over a variety of terrain, from California, through Arizona and New Mexico and ending in southern Texas. More than 1,100 kilometers of that stretch already is fenced, but nowhere is the barrier as massive as the wall described in the new CBP documents.
Trump called for the wall to stop illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and to cut off drug-smuggling routes. A preliminary version of the president's budget for government for fiscal 2018, beginning in October, was sent to Congress this week, and it included $2.6 billion for the beginning of wall construction.