DHS waives contracting rules for border wall

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced plans to use special authority to build sections of the planned border wall without the use of competitive bidding.

US-Mexican border in Arizona close to highway 85, captured in September 2016 By Martin Froyda Royalty-free stock photo ID: 550962325
 

The Department of Homeland Security will waive traditional contracting rules to expedite construction of a wall along sections of the four states on the southern border.

According to a Federal Register notice set to publish Feb. 20, DHS is looking to accelerate the tempo of construction projects in targeted sections of the planned border wall through a broad waiver or requirements of the use of open competition, pricing data, wage determination and other aspects of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

In a Feb. 18 appearance on Fox and Friends, Wolf said a section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, gives DHS the authority to waive the rules to expedite contracting for the wall. Wolf said the agency has used the same authority to waive environmental rules.

"Today we are going to start waiving those for procurement regulations and laws as well," Wolf said. " It allows to us speed up a lot of our contracts that the Army Corps [of Engineers has. Anywhere from 30 to 45 to 60 days."

The waivers will cover contracts in six border sectors: in Yuma and Tucson sectors in Arizona; San Diego and El Centro sectors in California; the El Paso sector, which covers New Mexico and west Texas, and the Del Rio sector in south Texas.

According to the notice, the waiver includes contracts for peripheral systems, like lighting, cameras and sensors, along with the physical barrier itself.

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee said that waiving procurement rules opened the door for fraud and abuse.

"President Trump broke his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement. "Now he's not only sticking the American people with the bill, but also waiving procurement laws meant to protect taxpayers from government waste, fraud, and abuse."

Thompson said Trump should focus his border security effort to stop drug on the nation's ports of entry where "90 percent of opioids are entering this country."

DHS had to abandon its last major border barrier project in 2011, the Secure Border Initiative Network, dubbed SBINet, after the agency racked up $1 billion in spending on 53 miles of barrier in Arizona. Government watchdogs questioned management of the project and constantly ballooning costs. A single vendor, Boeing, had been chosen for the project in 2006.

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