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Trump administration to waive contract laws in effort to speed up border wall construction


"President Trump is doing what he said he would do"

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

In an effort to speed up wall construction along the southern border, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to wave some of the rules about how the federal government agrees to work with contractors.

DHS said Tuesday that it will waive 10 federal laws that include requirements that the government hold open competition for contracts and get bonds from contractors before the work can start, according to the Associated Press. The department explained in the story that the waivers will help speed up construction on 177 miles of border wall.

The report also notes that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is waiving the laws under statutory authority given to him by a 2005 law that was also used multiple times during the George W. Bush administration.

"President Trump is doing what he said he would do and is building a wall to secure the border," tweeted DHS spokesperson Heather Swift about the news. "DHS will now waive certain procurement regulations in 6 border sectors. We can quickly build 177 miles of new wall using already vetted and tested contractors."

The waivers will be applied to border construction projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, the Associated Press reported.

In a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox News' "Fox & Friends," Wolf explained that while the waiver authority had previously been used to get around environmental requirements, this would be the first time the department used it in the procurement process. The secretary said that the change would "allow us to speed up a lot of our contracts that the Army Corps [of Engineers] has, anywhere from 30 to 45 to 60 days. And so we hope that that will accelerate some of the construction that's going along the southwest border."

During the appearance, the acting secretary also pledged that the administration had put "about 120 miles of new border wall system in the ground today" and would be up to 450 miles of constructed border wall "by the end of the calendar year."

Wolf says that funding for the affected projects will come from appropriated DHS funds as well as from the Department of Defense. Last week, the Pentagon announced that it would transfer $3.8 billion in reprogrammed funds to assist in the wall construction efforts, per President Donald Trump's emergency declaration last year.

While this latest move is sure to spark its own specific backlash, DHS' border construction waiver authority has already been a target of environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers.

"DHS secretaries during the George W. Bush and Donald Trump Administrations have used the waiver in all four U.S. states along the U.S.-Mexico border to override important environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act," the Sierra Club said on its website. "This unprecedented power must not be allowed to remain on the books."

In March 2019, the Democrat-led House Homeland Security Committee passed an act aimed at rescinding the waiver authority in a party-line vote.

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