The U.S. government would save $2.6 billion if President-elect Joe Biden halts construction on the border wall project on his first day in office, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates reviewed by The Washington Post. Biden said this summer he would not build “another foot” of the border barriers that became a symbol of the Donald Trump presidency and one of the most expensive federal infrastructure projects in U.S. history. The financial implications of a decision to stop work have not been publicly disclosed. U.S. Army Corps commanders met with members of the Biden transition team last week to discuss the border wall project. The Trump administration obtained $15 billion for the barrier project, enough to complete 738 miles of new fencing, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
About one-third of the $15 billion was provided by Congress through the appropriations process; Trump took the rest from Department of Defense counternarcotics programs and military construction accounts. While the Biden administration will have the ability to terminate or modify contracts with the construction firms building the barrier, those companies will be able to bill the government for “demobilization” fees that cover the withdrawal of crews, materials and equipment from the border. Those fees are projected to add up to about $700 million. Officials have long insisted the barrier is part of a “system” that includes powerful detection technology and roads that allow patrol agents to respond faster to incursions. The president-elect’s agenda calls for an immediate end to the national emergency declaration that allowed Trump to “siphon federal dollars” from defense budgets. CBP acting commissioner Mark Morgan said this week that Biden’s pledge to stop work would be a “waste of taxpayer money” adding up to “billions.”