- The US Army Corps of Engineers has reportedly doled out over a half a billion dollars to a federal contracting firm to build sections of Trump’s border wall at an above-market rate.
- The Daily Beast reported on Thursday night that the Army announced a $US569 million no-bid contract to BFBC, a firm affiliated with Barnard Construction, to build 17.7 miles of the border wall.
- While the Trump administration pays contractors around $US20 million per mile of wall, BFBC is receiving $US33 million per mile for the latest contract.
- The group’s executives and employees have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to top Montana and national Republicans, campaign finance filings show.
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The Trump administration has already diverted billions from the US military in 2020 to fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.
And now, as the Pentagon contends with a pandemic, the US Army has doled out another half billion dollars to a federal contracting firm with a history of making GOP donations to build sections of Trump’s border wall at an above-market rate, the Daily Beast reported on Thursday night.
According to a public notice posted by the Pentagon on Tuesday, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced a $US569 million no-bid contract to BFBC, a firm affiliated with Barnard Construction, to build 17.7 miles of the border wall in El Centro and San Diego, California to be completed in June 2021.
The Bozeman, Montana based firm has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians over the years, and been awarded over $US1 billion in federal contracts to build sections of the border wall so far.
Notably, the Army is also paying BFBC far above the average rate per mile to build the designated section of the wall, the Daily Beast reported. While the Trump administration pays contractors on average around $US20 million per mile of wall, BFBC is receiving $US33 million per mile for the latest contract.
An Army spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the Corps of Engineers “requested BFBC design and construct an additional 17.17 miles of border barrier in El Centro and San Diego, CA” since the firm was “mobilized and working” near those sections of the wall.
Citing Federal Election Commission filings, the Daily Beast noted that Barnard Construction founders Timothy and Mary Barnard personally donated $US5,600 to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign (in the 2016 Republican primary, they donated to several of Trump’s Republican rivals including Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul).
The group’s top executives and employees have contributed to top Montana and national Republicans. In all, they have given tens of thousands to the Montana Republican State Central Committee, former US Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, Montana at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte, former Rep. Ryan Zinke, and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana.
People affiliated with the firm have also given thousands to US Senators Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of Arizona, and Cory Gardner of Colorado, in addition to several construction-related trade industry groups.
Some of the firm’s employees have also made contributions to Democratic candidates through ActBlue, filings show, but the bulk of donations associated with the firm have gone towards Republicans.
Between all its contracting awards, amounting to $US1 billion for 33 miles of the wall, the firm has received $US27 million per mile on average – still far above the Trump administration’s average for contractors, and a figure that alarmed independent watchdogs.
“$US1 billion for 37 miles of wall is a travesty and it must be investigated and audited immediately,” Scott Amey of the Project on Government Oversight, told the Beast. “These efforts might make good on a campaign promise, but who is minding the store and ensuring that military readiness and bases are not negatively impacted?”
On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers called on the administration to halt construction of the border wall altogether as the Pentagon and especially the US Army Corps of Engineers grapple with building the infrastructure necessary to respond to COVID-19.
“Money that should be invested in healthcare, small businesses, and fighting the spread of COVID-19 is instead being used to build an ineffective and wasteful border wall that does not solve our immigration crisis or protect our homeland,” the letter, addressed to Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
“At this juncture, the priority of the United States must be to stop the spread of COVID-19. The continuation of wall construction compromises those efforts,” they said.
Trump is supportive of the military’s efforts to keep building the wall despite the current crisis. On March 10, Trump tweeted, “Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever!” in response to conservative commentator Charlie Kirk claiming that “the US stands a chance if we can control our borders.”
But Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centres for Disease Control, told Congress, that he hadn’t seen any evidence that a structural barrier like a wall would mitigate the spread of the highly contagious virus.