2016 Border Project: Arizona

The international border fence transitions from pedestrian barrier to vehicle barrier west of Nogales, Arizona.

Smugglers breached the fence along the Mexico border nearly 9,300 times, the federal government reported as it launched the bidding process to build a new border wall promised by President Donald Trump.

The breaches, which occurred during fiscal years 2010-2015 along the length of the border, cost more than $7 million to repair, according to a Government Accountability Office report, issued in mid-February, outlining the state of the border fence and calling for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to find a way to measure the contributions fencing makes to border security.

As of Monday, more than 630 companies, including 41 from Arizona, expressed interest in building the first parts of a 30-foot-tall concrete wall on the border, according to a solicitation posted by CBP on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

CBP is asking companies to submit prototype concepts that will meet requirements for “aesthetics, anti-climbing, and resistance to tampering or damage.”

The solicitation is meant to evaluate concepts for the wall, but is “not intended as the vehicle for the procurement of the total wall solution for the border with Mexico.” The final proposals, including pricing, are due in early May.

In the GAO report, which was based on an audit of border security measures that ran from October 2015 to February 2017, CBP officials said the agency suspended its efforts to measure how fencing contributes to border security in 2013 due to funding cuts.

In the report, CBP officials also said fencing is “part of a system of capabilities” that includes Border Patrol agents and surveillance technology. As a result, finding a way to measure the effectiveness of one element, rather than the system as a whole, was challenging.

The GAO report found along the entire border:

  • 9,287 breaches in pedestrian fencing during fiscal years 2010-2015. Average cost to repair each breach was $784.
  • 82 breaches per mile on average for fencing installed prior to the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and 14 breaches per mile for more recent fencing.
  • $2.3 billion spent during fiscal years 2007-2015 to build border fencing. During that period, $450 million spent on operation and maintenance of tactical infrastructure, including fencing, roads, lights, drainage, and vegetation control.
  • The border is made up of 696 land miles and 1,295 river miles
  • 654 miles of primary fencing, including 354 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle fencing.
  • CBP maintains about 5,000 miles of roads along the border.
  • $6.5 million average cost per mile to build pedestrian fencing and $1.8 million for vehicle fencing.
Tucson Sector
  • 262 miles of the border.
  • Nearly 4,000 Border Patrol agents.
  • 211 miles of fencing, which amounts to 32 percent of fencing on the entire border.
  • $44.7 million estimated cost to replace 7.5 miles of fence in Naco, or $6 million per mile. Project began in fiscal year 2016.
  • $68.26 million spent to replace 14.1 miles of pre-2006 pedestrian fencing in Tucson and Yuma sectors during fiscal years 2011-2016, or $4.84 million per mile for 2.8 miles in Nogales, 9.5 miles in Douglas, and 1.8 miles in San Luis.
  • Drive-through smuggling attempts in the Tucson Sector fell by 73 percent after vehicle fencing was installed.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar