By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security
A steel slat prototype for President Trump’s planned border wall failed a security test ordered by the Department Homeland Security (DHS). Testers were able to cut through the slats with an ordinary saw available in hardware stores, according to an NBC News report Thursday.
A photo exclusively obtained by NBC showed a section of the prototype wall with several open areas where the vertical steel slats had been sawn through.
Prior to his inspection tour of the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas today, President Trump responded to the NBC photo story by saying, “That’s a wall that was designed by previous administrations. There is nothing that can’t be penetrated, but you fix it.” He called his planned border wall “very, very hard — the wall that we are doing is very, very hard to penetrate.”
An internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report on DHS testing revealed that all eight prototypes, including the steel slats prototype, were vulnerable to breaching.
San Diego Public Radio station KPBS first aired the highly redacted CBP report in September 2018. The steel and concrete barriers that were tested in the $5 million Otay Mesa prototype project in 2017 “were meant to inform future wall designs, combining different features of the prototypes,” KPBS reporter Jean Guerrero explained.
Mock-ups and Prototypes Underwent Five Tests
The tests on the proposed border wall, conducted the Border Patrol Tactical Unit and military special forces, including Marine Special Operations Command and the U.S. Special Operations Command, “consisted of five test cases for the mock-ups and prototypes:
- Engineering design review analysis
- Constructability inspection
KPBS said it was unclear from the document whether the walls can be scaled because the government redacted almost the entire section on scaling, including the photographs.
Border Wall Breach Tests Rescheduled Due to Potential for Collapse
Testing breach techniques were rescheduled for last due to the potential “to impact the structural integrity of the entire mock-up,” the report said.
Robert K. Dowell, associate professor of structural engineering at San Diego State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, told KPBS that the testers “put the breach tests at the end because …they thought it was going to collapse.”
A 2017 Government Accountability Office report called breaching “a widespread problem” along the existing border infrastructure. “The 653 miles of barriers on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border are marred with cuts and patches. New breaches appear on a daily basis, with smugglers using axes, torches, battery operated cutting tools and more,” the GAO found.