Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico seemed like one of those outlandish campaign promises designed to curry favor with nationalistic, isolationist voters, but it’s quickly moving from rhetoric to reality. On Friday, February 24, the Department of Homeland Security posted a pre-solicitation notice for a “Design-Build Structure” to the government’s Federal Business Opportunities site.
The notice gives a brief outline of the schedule for the solicitation:
The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017. The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.
Where to begin.
Let’s start with the timeline. It’s absurd that DHS thinks any firm can develop initial concepts for a 2,000-mile-long wall in the four days between when the solicitation will be issued, on March 6, and when the solicitation’s deadline will be up, on March 10. The landscape between Mexico and the United States is composed of sensitive ecosystems, urban areas, water, hills, flats–you name it. The environmental consequences of a wall would be immense. The negative economic implications–loss of consumer business, loss of access to natural resources–would also be immense. Then there is the time period for the proposals that make it into phase two: only four days for firms to price out what their concept might cost to construct. Those expectations are laughably high and a surefire recipe for a design destined to balloon in budget and fail.
It’s one thing to create a conceptual rendering as a thought exercise, which a handful of artists and architects have done as social commentary against the wall. It’s another process entirely to think about something that is feasible. This notice sounds more like more smoke and mirrors than part of a viable plan. At least I hope that’s the case.