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Test of steel prototype for border wall


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President Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat design for his border wall, which he described as "absolutely critical to border security" in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But Department of Homeland Security testing of a steel slat prototype proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS.


The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Trump inspected the prototypes in March 2018. He has now settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.


However, testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

Photos of the breaches were not included in a redacted version of the CBP report, which was first obtained in a Freedom of Information Act Request by San Diego public broadcaster KPBS.



Responding to the picture from the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday morning, Trump claimed "that’s a wall designed by previous administrations."

While it is true that previous administrations used this design, the prototype was built during his administration.

"It's very, very hard — the wall that we are doing is very, very hard to penetrate," Trump said.

The eight wall prototypes twice before President Trump's March 2018 inspection. According to San Diego Sector Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, the versions seen by  president, however, were larger than the actual prototypes tested at "Pogo Row."


In a statement, DHS Spokeswoman Katie Waldman said, "The steel bollard construction is based on the operational requirements of the United States Border Patrol and is a design that has been honed over more than a decade of use. It is an important part of Border Patrol's impedance and denial capability."

"While the design currently being constructed was informed by what we learned in the prototypes, it does not replicate those designs," said Waldman. "The steel bollard design is internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution. In the event that one of the steel bollards becomes damaged, it is quick and cost-effective to repair.

"The professionals on the border know that a wall system is intended not only to prevent entry, it is intended to defer and to increase the amount of time and effort it takes for one to enter so that we can respond with limited border patrol agents. Even a wall that is being breached is a valuable tool in that it allows us to respond to the attempted illegal entry."

In response to KPBS, CBP spokesman Ralph DeSio said the prototypes "were not and cannot be designed to be indestructible," but were designed to "impede or deny efforts to scale, breach, or dig under such a barrier, giving agents time to respond."

In his address to the nation Tuesday, Trump said the steel fence design is "what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense."


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