For architects still eager to “stand ready” with President Donald Trump’s pledge to build new works of infrastructure, here’s your chance: The United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection office has issued a preliminary “solicitation” for proposals to build the president’s controversial border wall between the United States and Mexico.
The solicitation, posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website on February 24th, states the following:
The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017. The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.
The solicitation was issued the same day the president, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Congress’s (CPAC) annual forum, mentioned that progress on the wall was, “way, way, way ahead of schedule” and just two weeks after the administration began a heavy-handed crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the country. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump fueled his candidacy with strikingly anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, promising to forcibly deport the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the country. It seems now that President Trump, having botched the rollout of the administration’s travel ban against seven predominantly Muslim countries, is turning his attention to immigrants in this country to fulfill those campaign promises.
The new focus will surely reinvigorate debate within the architectural profession regarding individuals’ and organizations’ kowtowing embrace of these so-called infrastructural projects. Following the travel ban hullabaloo, the American Institute of Architects issued a statement in support of immigration and international travel. The organization remains silent, however, on the issue of the proposed border wall and on the various other building-related issues the administration is currently pursuing, like increased use of private prisons for federal detentions, including deportation actions.
Media reports have indicated that the private prison industry is looking to profit handsomely from recently relaxed regulations against such facilities under the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Their use is set to expand vastly under a directive issued that instructs the CBP to expand its detention capabilities from a capacity of roughly 34,000 detainees today to upwards of 80,000 detainees in the near future. Monetary costs for the border wall vary widely, from between $12 to $15 billion according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The CBP recently issued an internal memo pegging the wall’s cost at closer to $21.5-billion.
Whatever the cost, the lack of leadership and activism on the part of professional building trade organizations is palpable.