On Wednesday, several Senators, including Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Joni Ernst, have written a letter to Assistant Secretary Dalton expressing concern over the Department of Defense’s decision to pay private landowners to store border wall materials instead of using them to fortify the southern border.
According to the letter, over 20,000 border wall sections lie unused at project sites in southern Arizona and New Mexico, and the Department of Defense pays $130,000 daily to store, maintain, and secure these materials. The Senators argue that these funds should be used to bolster national security instead of incurring daily charges for storage.
The Senators also urge Assistant Secretary Dalton to pursue all possible avenues to sponsor or endorse the reuse of excess Department of Defense property, including further transfer to states. They request that the Department of Defense provide internal correspondence regarding the decision to pay for storage, a list of the individuals and entities being paid for use of their land, and an explanation of the contracting process.
The letter highlights the ongoing issue around border security under the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border. Republicans have criticized the administration’s policies, arguing that they have made the country more vulnerable to threats. This letter adds to the mounting pressure on the administration to address the situation at the southern border and use all available resources to strengthen national security.
This letter comes the same week U.S Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the U.S. does not have operational control over the entire border.
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:
1. 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. 2. 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.
3. 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.