The president has been an advocate for a steel slat design for his border wall with Mexico. He described it as “absolutely critical to border security” in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But the Department of Homeland Security tested a steel slat prototype and proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS.
NBC News obtained an exclusive photo that shows the results of the test after military and Border Patrol personnel were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools.
The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. The president inspected the prototypes in March 2018 and settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.
But previous testing done by the DHS in 2017 showed that all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.
The photo of testing results obtained by NBC News was taken at the testing location along the California-Mexico border, known as “Pogo Row.”
Trump responded to the picture claiming “that’s a wall designed by previous administrations.” But while it is true that previous administrations used this design, the prototype was built during his administration.
“It’s very, very hard — the wall that we are doing is very, very hard to penetrate,” Trump said.
In a statement, DHS Spokeswoman Katie Waldman said, “The steel bollard construction is based on the operational requirements of the United States Border Patrol and is a design that has been honed over more than a decade of use. It is an important part of Border Patrol’s impedance and denial capability.”
“While the design currently being constructed was informed by what we learned in the prototypes, it does not replicate those designs,” said Waldman. “The steel bollard design is internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution. In the event that one of the steel bollards becomes damaged, it is quick and cost-effective to repair.
“The professionals on the border know that a wall system is intended not only to prevent entry, it is intended to defer and to increase the amount of time and effort it takes for one to enter so that we can respond with limited border patrol agents. Even a wall that is being breached is a valuable tool in that it allows us to respond to the attempted illegal entry.”
CBP spokesman Ralph DeSio said the prototypes “were not and cannot be designed to be indestructible,” but were designed to “impede or deny efforts to scale, breach, or dig under such a barrier, giving agents time to respond.”
In his address to the nation Tuesday, Trump said the steel fence design is “what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense.”