More than a year after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of fencing and barriers along the border with Mexico, DHS has no such tool ready, as President Trump prepares to pick the winning designs for his $18 billion border wall, the Washington Post reports. Trump officials have dismissed criticism of their border security plan with a simple retort: “Walls work.” A February 2017 GAO report found DHS has no way to measure how well they work, where they work best, or whether less-expensive alternatives could be just as effective. Despite the assumption that illegal traffic enters through areas where fencing is absent, the report identified several sectors where more arrests occur in locations that have existing barriers.
U.S. border agents collect “geotag” data, electronic markers that assign geographic locations, to map illegal crossings and arrests. DHS has no means to gauge the extent to which those incursions are impeded by “tactical infrastructure,” the report noted, undermining the agency’s ability to avoid wasteful spending. DHS officials say they are working with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to develop such an evaluation system, and it may be ready later this year. President Trump is moving forward anyway. His administration budgeted $1.6 billion for wall construction this year. Trump will travel to San Diego on Tuesday to view eight prototypes and likely announce one or more winning designs. The trip will be Trump’s first as president to California, a state his administration is suing for refusing to assist with immigration enforcement. Trump’s wall-building plan, which is stalled in Congress, would spend $18 billion over 10 years to add 316 miles of new barriers and replace aging fencing along another 407 miles.