Bor­der wall tests find heights are ef­fec­tive

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL - By El­liot Sp­a­gat

SAN DIEGO — Re­cent as­saults by tac­ti­cal teams on pro­to­types of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed wall with Mex­ico found their im­pos­ing heights should stop bor­der crossers, The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned, a find­ing that’s likely to please se­cu­rity hawks but raise con­cerns about costs and en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

Mil­i­tary spe­cial forces based in Florida and U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion spe­cial units spent three weeks try­ing to breach and scale the eight mod­els in San Diego, us­ing jack­ham­mers, saws, torches and other tools and climb­ing de­vices, a U.S. of­fi­cial with di­rect knowl­edge of the rig­or­ous test­ing told the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the in­for­ma­tion was not au­tho­rized for pub­lic re­lease.

Each model was to be 18 to 30 feet high, and con­trac­tors built at or near the max­i­mum, which is roughly twice as high as many ex­ist­ing bar­ri­ers. Ron­ald Vi­tiello, the agency’s act­ing deputy com­mis­sioner, said af­ter vis­it­ing the pro­to­types in Oc­to­ber that he was struck most by their height.

The highly trained testers scaled 16 to 20 feet unas­sisted but needed help af­ter that, said the of­fi­cial, who de­scribed the as­saults on the wall pro­to­types to the AP. Testers also ex­pressed safety con­cerns about get­ting down from 30 feet.

Only once did a tester man­age to land a hook on top of the wall with­out help, the of­fi­cial said. Tubes atop some mod­els re­pelled climb­ing de­vices but wouldn’t work in more moun­tain­ous ar­eas be­cause the ter­rain is too jagged.

A Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion re­port on the tests iden­ti­fies strengths and flaws of each de­sign but does not pick an over­all win­ner or rank them. The re­port rec­om­mends com­bin­ing el­e­ments of each, depend­ing on the ter­rain. The of­fi­cial likened it to a Lego de­sign, pulling pieces from dif­fer­ent pro­to­types.

The re­port fa­vors steel at the ground level be­cause agents can see what is hap­pen­ing on the other side through mesh, and dam­age can more eas­ily be fixed than con­crete, the of­fi­cial said. With con­crete, large slabs have to be re­placed for even small breaches, which is time­con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive. Top­ping the steel with smooth con­crete sur­faces helps pre­vent climb­ing.

File, Gre­gory Bull / AP

Crews work on a bor­der wall pro­to­type.

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