"We built over 100 miles in only 90 days," explains James Bonk. Bonk was a consultant and manager among the team of companies who in 2006-2008 built and extended much of the border wall that already exists today along the USA's southern border with Mexico, in the Goldwater and Yuma sectors. The prime contractor was Boeing, but there were many subcontractors. More recently, Bonk has been involved in planning border walls in Spain and in Israel. He has worked with a variety of major companies and different engineering designs for fences and barriers.
Actual experience in building miles of border wall argues for a so-called Bollard wall or fence, or the design of vertical steel rods or "slats" (perhaps some other metal, but metal) promoted by Trump more recently. ("Bollards are upright steel posts mounted in or alongside roads and parking lots to control, direct, or obstruct vehicular traffic or impact," says the Long Fence Co.)
James Bonk came to speak at the Northern Virginia Tea Party, skeptical of discussions about Trump's border wall being solid concrete slabs. From his years of experience, transporting giant concrete slabs to the middle of nowhere would be expensive and inefficient. He has worked on concrete wall projects but would not recommend that design on the wilderness frontier. Mixing and pouring concrete slabs on site in the middle of nowhere would be difficult. Logistics and transport of components are an important part of any such project.
Opponents of a border wall keep saying we must listen to experts. Along with border patrol agents on duty, those experts include those like James Bonk, who have actually built the parts of the border wall we have now. But those experts and border patrol agents on site are calling for a metal wall of vertical pipes or slats they can see through, which is exactly what Trump is now promoting.
James Bonk is concerned that bureaucrats a decade ago sabotaged and undermined the project with "designed to fail" illogical requirements and that ideas being discussed today are similarly aimed at intentionally failing in the project. The wall-building project abruptly stopped when Barack Obama became president. Nevertheless, despite the hindrances, they successfully built hundreds of miles.
This author asked James Bonk about the problems of building in or near the Rio Grande in the flood plains along the border of Texas. Not even remotely a problem was among the lessons learned from experience. A concrete foundation would not need to be laid in the lowlands.
One of the best techniques would be to dig a trench and then bury a steel "footer" deep into the ground. The metal plate serving as the buried foundation would have legs or wings out to each side to make the wall stay upright. The vertical slats or pipes forming the actual fence or wall would then be welded or bolted into the footer. A second level of footer may be added with side legs or wings just beneath the ground level. Then the entire footer is buried.
Another design involves massive metal bases seated into the ground by pile-drivers. Each such base attaches to one large vertical pipe or a section of vertical fence.
This design will allow flood waters to freely flow through the openings without obstruction. Strong winds would flow through easily. Irrigation channels or pipes can be installed through the fence to bring water from the river to farmers and ranchers.
Trump's new sections would be probably be 30 to 40 feet, rather than the 12-foot-high sections constructed in 2007-2009. Bonk emphasizes that teams then were prohibited from building a high wall out of fear that trespassers would climb over and then fall. In the past, bureaucrats did not want a fence that would actually work.
Solar panels mounted on the ground on the north side of the access road along the fence would power motion sensors or movement differential radar mounted up on the top of the fence, triggering radio alerts back to Customs and Border Patrol; lights; video cameras; and loud-speaker-recorded warnings of potential injury if climbing the fence is attempted. If anyone tries to damage the fence, the video recordings would get him put in jail with felony convictions, not released into U.S. society. A win.
Recall that it is already the law of the land that a border wall shall be built along the "entire" United States' southern border. In late 2006, Congress enacted and President George W. Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
The wording of the act is not about a "fence," but about any kind of barrier customized to the particular terrain in each location to the extent necessary to "the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband." That is "all" — as in "all." So the Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires building "whatever it takes" — not a "fence" per se. And it requires operational control of the "entire" border of the United States.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was never fully implemented because Congress did not appropriate the funds to pay for a barrier along the entire border. Because the project is already a construction project "authorized" by Congress, the only remaining question is to supply the funding needed through appropriations by Congress or by Trump repurposing funds from other budgetary line items and applying those funds to finishing the border wall.
In 2007, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) led passage of an amendment that did not actually change much. The amendment clarified that the secretary of homeland security has discretion to determine the type of wall or barrier appropriate for each location along the border. That means that if Trump's DHS secretary determines that an extensive wall of vertical slats 100 feet high is necessary, the Secretary's determination becomes the absolute law of the land.