On September 3, 2019, the Secretary of Defense formally notified Congress of his plans to transfer funds from previously-approved military construction projects to build a fence on the southern border. The Secretary’s letter does not ask Congress for permission via a traditional reprogramming request. Instead, he invokes authority from the “National Emergencies Act” and 10 U.S.C. Section 2808.
The list of construction projects is titled “Military Construction Projects” although they have apparently not gone through the traditional design process and cannot, with the possible exception of the projects on the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona, be classified as having a military mission.
The Secretary’s plan is to make up to $3.6 billion in “unobligated military construction funds” available to construct fencing and pursue “real estate actions” on the southern border. There is no new wall construction in the request. All requests are for primary or secondary fencing.
- The request totals 174 miles of fencing described as follows:
- 60.5 miles of new and primary fencing
- 57 miles of new but secondary fencing
- 56.5 miles of replacement primary fencing
- If you calculate the $3.6 billion in costs across all 174 miles, the average cost per mile is $20.7 million.
- One mile equals 5280 feet. So that means each foot of fencing is costing the taxpayers more than $3,900.
- In one case in New Mexico, 23.5 miles of vehicle barriers would be torn down and replaced with “new pedestrian fencing.”
- Arizona would receive 64 miles of fence construction at a cost of just under $1.2 billion. That’s an average of $18.8 million per mile. (A relative bargain compared to Texas!)
- California would receive 5 miles of fence construction at a cost of $495 million. That’s an average of $22 million per mile.
- New Mexico would receive 5 miles of fence construction at a cost of $476 million. That’s an average of $20 million per mile.
- Texas would receive 52 miles of fence construction at a cost of just under $1.3 billion. That’s an average of $25 million per mile.
- Another 12 miles of fence construction at a cost of $164 million is going to either Texas or New Mexico. The list of projects doesn’t give enough detail to tell for sure. That’s an average of $13.6 million per mile.