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GOP senator urges taking job of building border wall away from the Army Corps of Engineers and giving it to private companies


'Who we choose to build the wall defines whether it actually gets built.'

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) on Friday called for the firing of Pentagon officials who are overseeing the U.S.-Mexico border wall projects, the Washington Examiner reported.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday, Cramer said the Army Corps of Engineers has "wasted taxpayer funds and been egregiously slow in constructing physical barriers" on the southern border. He added that he wants private sector businesses to be awarded the job, which he believes would be completed more quickly and for less money than the estimated $8 billion.

The senator also publicly shared his opinion of the Corps of Engineers on Twitter.

"Who we choose to build the wall defines whether it actually gets built," Cramer wrote. "The Army Corp of Engineers has been an abstract [sic] failure and should not be trusted to secure the southern border. We need someone to #BuildTheWall on time and under budget."

What's the problem with the Corps of Engineers?

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the first border wall project to Nebraska-based SWF Constructors.

The $11 million contract was part of a project to replace just over two miles of fence with a 30-foot-high barrier at Calexico, California, according to the Associated Press in a story last year. SWF has been sued multiple times for not paying its subcontractors and a federal audit found questionable billing practices. The company, which was owned by New York-based Coastal Environmental Group, listed only one employee in its Omaha office.

It took eight months to complete the project, Cramer explained in his letter.

In June, the Army Corps completed an 18-month process and awarded West Point Contractors a $22 million project in El Paso, Texas.

The company was allowed 150 days to complete a four-mile project.

"The contractor has been allotted over 150 working days to complete only four miles of fence (about 140 feet of production per day). Even at this slow pace, the lengthy procurement process will still have taken over 3 times as long as the time it will take to construct this section of the border wall," Cramer wrote.

In December, DHS asked the Army Corps to build 29 miles of barrier as part of three small projects in California and Arizona.

The Army Corps took the $287 million job and then sub-contracted it to SLS Construction for $166.8 million, United Press International reported.

SLS, based in Galveston, Texas, hires subcontractors for its projects. It started working on the three small projects last month. The completion is expected in mid-2020.

What else?

A North Dakota company has offered to build 234 miles of border wall for $1.4 billion.

Fisher Sand and Gravel CEO Tommy Fisher said that $1.4 billion would cover the cost of building 20 miles of levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley as well as an additional 214 miles of wall.

Fisher said the government has overpaid for the construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, adding that his company could build the wall, plus incorporate paved roads and security technology and provide a warranty for $4.31 billion.

What else did Cramer say in his letter to Nielsen?

Cramer told Nielsen that President Donald Trump "prides himself on accomplishing projects on time and under budget."

"Unfortunately, current construction of the wall has been contracted out to the USACE, and on time and under budget has not characterized their work," he wrote, according to the Examiner. "Leading the government to be on time and under budget requires a change in the way we operate, and getting the USACE out of projects that can be handled by private contractors will help move our government in this more efficient direction."

"[T]he USACE should not be trusted with the responsibility of securing our southern border," Cramer told Nielsen.

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