WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and 13 of her Republican colleagues sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Melissa Dalton after receiving information confirming that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has spent more than $300 million in taxpayer dollars to house unused border wall panels since President Biden ordered a halt to construction of the wall in 2021. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) led the letter.
The built sections – also known as bollard panels – lie unused at 20 project sites across southern Arizona and New Mexico. The DoD is spending $130,000 daily to store, maintain, and secure these panels, despite attempts by states and other entities to acquire the panels and put them to use.
The Senators blasted such wasteful spending during a dangerous time for American national defense.
“The Department of Defense should not be incurring these daily charges but should be using these funds to bolster national security. In a highly dangerous security environment for the United States, every dollar Congress authorizes for the Department of Defense should be used effectively. This failing program clearly misses that standard,” the Senators wrote.
To follow up on the revelation, the Senators requested a full accounting of the DoD’s internal correspondence on this issue, a list of entities the Department is paying to store the panels, and an explanation of how the contract process for storage proceeded.
In addition to Sens. Fischer and Wicker, the letter was signed by 10 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.). As well as Texas delegation U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The full letter can be found here or below.
The Honorable Melissa G. Dalton
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs
1300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Assistant Secretary Dalton,
Many of us have toured the southern border, and we have seen firsthand how vulnerable this Administration’s border policies have made our nation. Today we write because we are disturbed to learn the Department of Defense is paying private landowners to store border wall materials procured under the Trump Administration instead of fortifying the southern border with those materials.
At present, over 20,000 border wall sections, otherwise known as bollard panels, lie unused at 20 project sites across southern Arizona and New Mexico. Every day, the Department of Defense pays $130,000 to store, maintain, and secure these materials. Since you were sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs a year ago, you have allowed the Department to pay over $47 million to store these panels. The Department of Defense should not be incurring these daily charges but should be using these funds to bolster national security. In a highly dangerous security environment for the United States, every dollar Congress authorizes for the Department of Defense should be used effectively. This failing program clearly misses that standard.
With the support of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the Department of Defense disposes of excess military property through reutilization, resale, and demilitarization programs. We assume you are well aware of this capability since the Department used the program to transfer 1,700 border wall panels to the state of Texas early in your tenure. It has come to our attention that only 4% of the excess bollard panel materials have been transferred. We urge you to pursue all possible avenues to sponsor or endorse the reuse of excess Department of Defense property, including further transfer to states.
As you continue to review your handling of the southern border, please provide:
- The Department of Defense’s internal correspondence that informed the decision to forgo the Department of Defense Excess Property Disposal process and instead pay $130,000 per day to store border wall panels.
- The list of the individuals and/or entities the Department of Defense is paying for use of their privately-owned land to store the unused border materials.
- An explanation of the process through which the Department of Defense contracted with private landowners to store the unused border materials, including whether there was a competitive contracting process and whether the landowners have instituted an inventory review system.
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