President Trump’s “Border Wall” Cost Dispute Analysis

On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order (see Appendix A) that calls for the construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico.

The executive order includes the following action: “Produce a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border, to be completed within 180 days of this order, […] to obtain and maintain complete operational control of the southern border.”

During the election campaign, Trump quantified that the cost of the wall will hover at $8-12 billion. However, politicians and engineers challenged that figure as entirely unrealistic, not even covering the minimum predictable costs.

According to a paper published in MIT Technology Review, a 1,640 km steel-reinforced concrete wall should cost $40 billion. According to the wall expert Mr. Todd Sternfeld, the cost of the wall could exceed $26 billion. The Bernstein Research group has estimated that the cost the new wall could be between $15 and $25 billion.

During the election campaign, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell estimated that the border wall would cost $15 billion.

In 2009, the CRS (Congressional Research Service) concluded that the cost of ownership of a 1,610 km double-layer fencing ranges from $16.3 to $69.5 billion over a period of 25 years, depending on the wall-fence specifications.

Figure 1 – U.S.-Mexico Border Fences and Other Structures – January 2017

 

On February 9, 2017 Reuters (Ms. Julia E. Ainsley) published some details concerning a preliminary DHS internal document to be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which prepare President Trump’s 2018 Federal Budget Request to congress. The document states that:

“President Donald Trump’s “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct. With 1,046 km of the border already fortified, the new construction would extend almost the length of the entire border. The plan lays out what it would take to seal the border in three phases of construction of fences and walls covering just over 2,000 km by the end of 2020”.

The purpose of this analysis is to make the public aware of the conflicting cost estimates, by using the expertise of Homeland Security Research Corp. (HSRC) engineers gained from past border wall-fence consulting projects.

  • A careful analysis of the Executive Order Section 3 Clause (e) definition of a “Wall” reveals that it allows the use of any “similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier,” which would cost about 10% of the value of a concrete wall.
  • The Executive Order wording allows the administration to limit the length of the new wall-barrier to 1,610 km. Furthermore, the order does not specify the electronic sensors and other security infrastructure to be installed along the new “wall.”

As the cost of the Wall “is in the details” (e.g., design specifications), HSRC engineers analyzed 4 wall-barrier design alternatives, ranging between:

  • A maximum-cost concrete wall with multilayered security, 3,145km-long and 40ft-high, from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, at a cost of $34.2 billion*.
  • A minimum cost “photo op wall”: a multilayered electronic security barrier, consisting of a 40km-long and 40ft-high concrete wall, as well as a 1,560km-long and 24ft-high fence, at a total cost of $6.2 billion.

Figure 2 – Cost of 4 Southern Borders [$M] – HSRC’s Design Alternatives

 

The full report can be downloaded at: http://homelandsecurityresearch.com/president-trumps-proposed-border-wall-cost-dispute-analysis

 

Intelligence – The Weapon Europe Really Needs

Terrorist attacks in Europe are not a surprising event anymore. Every few weeks, another country in Europe finds itself under attack by terror. Germany, France, the UK, and Belgium are now all part of the global map of terror incidents. A stronger army and a higher defense budget cannot deal with “lone wolf” attacks or even the small core of closed groups found with in refugee compounds or suburbs.

The field in which Europe is really lacking power is Intelligence. Therefore, this is one of the areas it must invest most in, in order to deal with the problem before it becomes unmanageable. These are the main issues
Europe will need to address in the coming years, and which should trigger higher investment in Intelligence:

  1. Monitoring the borders and roads – The terrorist involved in the recent Berlin truck attack was finally apprehended in Italy. This implies that he managed to cross at least two borders in order to reach the country, where he was caught entirely by chance. Growing threats such as this incident are expected to push Europe to enhance its surveillance capabilities in all sectors of Intelligence – especially in SIGINT, HUMINT, and OSINT. One of the fastest-growing areas will be the increased use of Big Data Analytics.
  2. Dealing with privacy issues – In many European countries, privacy is a very important issue and citizens consider “intelligence” a frightening word. This cultural issue can affect the number of surveillance cameras used, the budget dedicated to communication surveillance, the amount of information shared among organizations, and more. As in many cases in other countries in the world, internal threats may change one’s perspective on “privacy,” giving way to “security” as the top priority. This cultural shift is projected to increase European budgets on surveillance.
  3. Sharing data and intel with more countries – Most of the terrorist attacks in Europe were committed by people who migrated to those places rather than having lived there their entire life. Therefore, their lives and personal “data” are scattered all over the world: Tunisia, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, as well as several countries around Europe. As a result, the task of collecting intelligence about them has become extremely difficult for one single organization to handle. For instance, learning about the family connections of a person of interest, discovering their credit history, travel history, email & phone history, as well as other types of information can be challenging for a Belgian intelligence analyst, who can only access data collected by Belgium or other countries in Europe. This issue is expected to yield increased investment to enhance data gathering and sharing among countries and organizations.

 Another significant issue linked to the globalization of terrorism is that organizations must deal with a plethora of sources in various languages: travel documents in Swedish, websites in Arabic, communication in Pashtu, human sources in French, social media in spoken Arabic of Tunisian dialect, etc. This problem is expected to emphasize the role of data analysis systems, with authorities no longer relying only on texts and the collaboration among organizations.

Most of the terrorists are not “ghosts” and intelligence organizations usually manage to find a lot of information about them once an attack has already occurred – the key challenge is to reach this information before the attack takes place. This implies new investments to increase the scope of sources and to better exploit existing ones. The market for Intelligence (in all its forms) along with Big Data for security purposes will grow substantially in Europe in the coming years. According to a recent report by HSRC, the market for Big Data in security segments in Europe will grow by over 20% per year. The global market will reach $11B by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 17.5%.

For more information about the report, click on the link below:

http://homelandsecurityresearch.com/2016/11/big-data-data-analytics-market-homeland-security-public-safety-global-market-2017-2022/

Global Video Analytics Market – This Region’s Market Share Will Nearly Triple

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Global Defense Video Analytics Market Share by Region [%] – 2011, 2020

Although the Defense, ISR & other security related video analytics market is currently dominated by the U.S., in the coming years the Asia-Pacific region is expected to sustain the fastest regional growth, biting into the U.S. market share. This growth is driven by India’s counter-terror investment and China’s internal security concerns. Within this region, some of the most lucrative business opportunities can be found in the critical infrastructure security intelligent video surveillance market sustaining double digit growth during the forecast period

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