- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security has spent $72 million in shutdown costs to stop building portions of former President Trump’s border wall, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress on Wednesday.

That money went to cancel contracts and deal with supplies in the pipeline for projects Mr. Mayorkas canceled.

He said that doesn’t include money the Pentagon spent to cancel projects Mr. Trump assigned to the Defense Department to help Homeland Security build hundreds of miles of fencing.

An estimate by Sen. James Lankford last year said the Pentagon’s shutdown costs were $2 billion.

Mr. Mayorkas revealed Homeland Security’s number during a hearing on his department’s budget request for fiscal 2023.

While President Biden has not asked for any new border wall money, he is sitting on as much as $2.5 billion in money Congress previously allocated for it but which remains unspent.

SEE ALSO: DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas insists Mexican border is secure

Under the law, Mr. Mayorkas is required to use that money for wall building, though he has some flexibility on how to go about that. The problem is that Mr. Biden, during the 2020 campaign, insisted not “another foot” of wall would be built on his watch.

Mr. Mayorkas said he’s trying to work his way through that.

“We are well aware of our responsibility to spend the funds that have been appropriated to the wall,” he said. “We are undertaking an analysis of how most effectively to do so while honoring the president’s commitment. We are dedicated to spending those funds in a way that enhances safety and security.”

He promised to give Congress a plan with more details, though he didn’t give a timeline on that document.

He said he has authorized construction on 68 new wall projects, completing gates and closing “gaps” in the wall.

Mr. Mayorkas also said they are working on “infirmities” in construction under Mr. Trump.

“We’re seeing corrosion and other failings,” he said.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, Iowa Republican, then confronted Mr. Mayorkas with a photo showing piles of steel that were supposed to be used for wall construction, but which have been left to rust after the construction halt.

“This is corrosion right here,” she told the secretary. “To taxpayers, they see this as a huge slap in the face to see these pieces sitting there that could be used to actually deter people from coming into our country.”

Mr. Trump had secured funding for 738 miles of border wall, complete with access roads, lighting and technology to help agents detect breaches. When the president left office about 453 miles of barrier had been completed, though the walls and technology had not been finished on all of that mileage.

According to Mr. Lankford’s calculations, Mr. Trump allocated $16.4 billion toward the wall, with $10 billion siphoned from Pentagon accounts.

Mr. Biden, upon taking office, canceled all of that construction and returned the leftover money to Pentagon accounts.

But the Homeland Security money came directly from Congress, and that’s the $2.5 billion that remains available, according to Rep. Kay Granger, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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