About $1 billion in federal contracts have recently been awarded to modify sections of  barriers on the U.S. border with Mexico, and the Dept. of Defense is seeking to follow up with more contracts in coming months. But at ENR press time, DOD had yet to decide which military construction projects it will seek to hold over until 2020 to free up funds for some of that future border work.

The Pentagon on April 9 announced that the Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque District awarded SLSCO Ltd., Galveston, Texas, a $789-million, fixed-price contract for about 46 miles of 30-ft “bollard-style barrier” near the existing Columbus, N.M., port of entry.

DOD also announced that the Corps Los Angeles District awarded Barnard Construction Co. Inc., Bozeman, Mont., a $187-million contract for about 11 miles of bollard-type barrier, with 18 ft or 30 ft heights, in the U.S. Border Patrol Yuma, Ariz., sector. Both contracts call for removing and replacing vehicle fencing with pedestrian fencing.

Jay Field, a spokesman in the Corps Los Angeles District, said, “Construction will begin at the earliest point possible.” He added that contract requirements won’t be released until terms, specification and price are determined, which will take up to 100 days from the award date. Field said the projects are expected to be finished in about 18 months.

Using a statutory provision dealing with anti-drug activities, Acting DOD Secretary Patrick Shanahan on March 25 authorized a shift of $1 billion from military personnel accounts to the border fence projects.

The contracts were awarded despite a March 27 letter from House defense appropriations subcommittee Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) denying the requested funding “reprogramming.”

Under a different statutory provision, DOD is seeking to fund perhaps another $2 billion or so in other border barrier work, this time by tapping military construction projects for which funds have been appropriated but that lack awarded contracts. President Trump in February declared an emergency on the border to allow the funding transfers.

DOD on March 18 sent Congress a list of about $12.9 billion in construction projects for which contracts hadn’t been awarded as of last Dec. 31. Many of the projects on the list aren’t at risk of being deferred, however. Those protected include ones with planned contract award dates through Sept. 30, and all military housing, barracks and dormitory projects. 

A DOD spokesman, Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, told ENR April 23, “At this time there are no final decisions on the … military construction projects.” He said an announcement should be coming “soon.”

Congressional Democrats may well seek to block shifts in “mil con” funds. Lawsuits challenging Trump’s emergency  declaration also are pending (ENR 3/7).

Correction: Corps spokesman is with Los Angeles District, not Division.