U.S.-Mexico border wall (Photo: Twitter)

U.S.-Mexico border wall (Photo: Twitter)

The Trump administration’s newest move to build a security wall along the nation’s southwestern border has been delegated to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, or USACE, which has launched an initiative to assess the capabilities of construction and engineering firms seeking lucrative awards in the ambitious endeavor.

In other words, who is actually capable of doing the project?

Initial contracts stemming from the review – which USACE is conducting in direct support of existing Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, activities – are expected to have “a total value of up to approximately $1.8 billion,” according to new documents located through routine database research.

The undertaking comes at a time when U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, or CBP, is embarking on Phase II reviews of “mock-up” prototype wall-structures that contractors developed and then recently presented to the DHS unit. The agency under another contract vehicle separately but simultaneously began reaching out to vendors to support Trump administration efforts to recruit and hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents.

CBP last month said it completed Phase I assessments of “solid concrete border wall” and “other border wall” components, and that it notified – without publicly identifying – participants in those different yet but connected actions. It offered an estimate that the two endeavors could result in the awarding of up to $600 million contracts in each segment, for a combined $1.2 billion.

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Whereas the $1.2 billion figure for contracts awarded under the prototype-structure solicitations will focus on the construction of horizontal wall structures, the USACE solicitation citing a higher $1.8 billion figure had referred to projects involving:

a mix of border fence, border wall, border patrol roads, border access roads, border lights, border gates (for access to border monuments, for maintenance, and for Border Patrol operational use), border drainage improvements, levee walls, and other miscellaneous improvements, repairs, and alterations.

The overall estimated cost of carrying out President Trump’s plan to build a wall remains unclear, as various estimates have ranging from about $12 billion to $40 billion. Nonetheless, border-control activists insist that the burdens heaped on U.S. citizens in the absence of decisive action by the federal government on illegal immigration is significantly costlier.

The targeted outcome of the USACE solicitation is the development of a “Prequalified Sources List” that CBP will use as a guide in soliciting several stand-alone contracts awarded for some of the previously mentioned project segments.

Only firms on the list will be eligible to compete for those projects, which will be located in California, New Mexico “and/or” Texas. The solicitation makes no reference to Arizona.

Among the qualifications USACE seeks to confirm is a demonstrated record of the contractor having completed prior construction projects valued at $100 million or more – plus the existing capacity to carry out “at least three” $100 million construction-contracts at the same time.

Other considerations include the ability to obtain performance bonds, which are formal guarantees that a contractor will perform a job in compliance with its contractual obligations. Failure to meet those contractual obligations could result in a bond being forfeited. The federal government wants to make sure contractors have an aggregate, or total, bonding capability of at least $300 million and a single bonding capability of at least $100 million.

Contractors under consideration of the prequalification list likewise must supply a written narrative consisting of 30 pages or less in which they describe how their company would successfully perform a construction contract under the two following “geographic scenarios” at remote construction sites in the (1) Southwestern United States adjacent to the international border with Mexico, and (2) lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas near the international border with Mexico.

Finally, contractors must justify how they are able to satisfy the demands of conducting remote construction work under the rigorous conditions of those regions.

Specifically, they must be able to “mobilize to a remote construction site and maintain a consistent flow of supplies, equipment, and personnel to the remote work site without causing any delay to the construction schedule.”

Regarding long-term plans for the border-security wall, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate is considering “some near-term funding opportunities” to further refine recently submitted concepts and proposals.

Interested parties had submitted ideas in response to Solicitation No. 2017-DHS-OCPO-RFI-0001, which DHS concurrently released in March along with the prototype wall-structure solicitations.

Some of those responses “will serve as inputs to acquisition planning for procurements over the next few years and some will also advise technology roadmaps for the longer term,” according to a joint statement from the DHS Chief Procurement Officer and the CBP Component Acquisition Executive.

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