By Tom Ozimek
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are investigating reports that the Biden Administration is selling off materials procured to build President Donald Trump’s signature border wall.
In a letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General Scott Spellmon (pdf), the GOP lawmakers requested documents and information that will facilitate House oversight over the Biden administration’s actions in selling vital border wall components.
“The Biden Administration’s decision to sell already purchased border materials is waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement on Sept. 13.
The Epoch Times reported earlier that the Biden administration was quietly auctioning off millions of dollars worth of border wall materials amid President Biden’s pledge not to build “another foot” of President Trump’s signature project.
“The United States is facing the worst border crisis in our history due to the Biden Administration’s policies,” Mr. Comer continued. “We should be using tools already at our disposal to stop the surge of illegal border crossings.”
Over 183,000 people were apprehended by agents along the U.S.-Mexico border in July, according to the latest data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with the numbers representing a 33 percent increase over the past month.
Republicans have blamed the Biden administration’s policies for failing to secure the southern border and for encouraging a tidal wave of illegal immigration.
Not ‘Another Foot’ of Border Wall
In contrast to his successor, President Trump was vocal about his determination to plug the gaps in the porous southern border and stem the flow of illegal immigration into the country.
As part of these efforts, President Trump erected more than 450 miles of new wall during his administration and, faced with funding hurdles, he even notably diverted some Pentagon funds to the project.
But on the day that President Biden took office, he issued a proclamation that rescinded the national emergency declaration that President Trump had relied on to divert some $10 billion from Pentagon coffers to border wall construction.
“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” President Biden said in the proclamation, while calling the Trump border wall a “waste of money.”
A Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that, following President Biden’s order, the DoD canceled border wall construction contracts and began disposing of unused material, some via auction.
The spokesperson insisted, however, that the DoD has kept Congress informed of these actions as a part of its routine briefings to lawmakers on border activities.
The spokesperson added that the U.S. Army remains in possession of around 21,000 finished bollard panels fabricated and acquired using DoD appropriations, and that these are pending final disposition.
‘False Political Rhetoric’: GOP
In their letter to Lt. General Spellmon, Mr. Comer and other Republican lawmakers alleged “waste and abuse of construction materials” and requested the DoD to provide all documents and communications relating to inventory or accounting of components procured by the federal government for the purposes of building the wall.
“On the day he was inaugurated, President Biden signed a proclamation halting the construction of the border wall, calling it ‘a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security,,” the letter reads, before calling President Biden’s remarks “patently false political rhetoric.”
The letter cited a Department of Homeland Security press release from Oct. 29, 2020 indicating that the border wall resulted in a significant decrease in illegal drug, border crossings, and human smuggling activities in areas where it was erected.
“Dismissing border barriers as a diversion from real threats reveals how shortsighted President Biden’s policy decisions have been from day one, especially as the number of individuals illegally crossing the border with derogatory information related to terrorism has skyrocketed since President Biden took office, with over 146 such encounters so far” this fiscal year, the Republican lawmakers wrote in the letter.
According to CBP figures, a total of 149 immigrants identified as known terrorists, suspected terrorists, or associates of both were arrested after trying to enter the United States illegally. Of these, 146 were apprehended at the southern border (a record high) and three at the northern border.
The Republicans said that the decision of the Biden administration to discontinue construction of the border wall and dispose of its components is a grave mistake that makes the border less secure and threatens national security.
Selling the Border Wall
The DoD spokesperson told The Epoch Times that, since October 2021, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which manages excess property disposal for the DoD, has been offering excess raw construction materials—including cameras, electronic cables, and steel tubes—to potential users in the DoD, other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments through its standard process.
The spokesperson added that, beginning in March 2022, the DLA began allowing unclaimed border wall materials to be auctioned off.
Around 21,000 finished bollard panels that were bought via DoD appropriations for the border wall remain in possession of the U.S. Army.
Previously, a DLA spokesperson confirmed to Power Corridor that a number of items up for auction on GovPlanet, an online auction marketplace, are “excess border wall materials that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned over to the DLA for disposition” and that these items are now “for sale.”
The auction site makes no mention of the origin of the materials, listing them generically as “steel tubing and sticks for industrial construction,” with some identified as “square structural tubes.”
Since April, the online auctioneer has sold more than 80 lots of steel “square structural tubes,” which were meant for use as vertical elements in the border wall’s panels, with 13 additional lots going under the hammer on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30, according to GovPlanet.
‘Finish the Wall’
Republicans, who have been deeply critical of President Biden on border security, introduced legislation in May that would force the Pentagon to allow millions of dollars worth of unused border wall components to be used to extend the wall along the southern border.
Called the Finish It Act, the legislation would require the federal government to either deploy the materials or transfer them to states, which would then use them to construct the wall.
The legislative proposal (pdf) came after an investigation by the Armed Services Committee found that the Pentagon was spending $47 million per year to store the wall panels and other elements.
“President Biden could not have created a worse border crisis if he tried, but he continues to stand in the way of a solution,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement in May.
“As Senate Republicans revealed earlier this year, his Administration is forcing the Department of Defense to spend millions of dollars a year to let border panels go unused when they could be used to secure our border.
“It is time for the President to put these materials to use and finish the wall.”
Amid more recent reports that the Biden administration was selling off border wall components rather than allowing them to be used to build more wall, Mr. Wicker called the development “outrageous, behind-the-scenes maneuvering.”
“This sale is a wasteful and ludicrous decision by the Biden administration that only serves as further proof they have no shame,” he told The New York Post.
Lt. Col. Devin T. Robinson told the NY Post that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has disposed of roughly $154 million worth of border wall materials out of a total stockpile worth about $260 million.