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Trump wall prototypes to be torn down

February 27, 2019 GMT

The eight prototypes built as part of President Trump’s border wall competition will be torn down starting Wednesday, with officials saying they’ve served their purpose and the prototypes are now in the way of where a new section of secondary wall needs to go.

The designs were never put into full operation, but a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official said they learned lessons from them chiefly that their existing models, such as the concrete-filled steel-bollard design, are the best option for most border needs right now.

“The’ll begin coming down today,” the official said. “We learned a lot for them,. but we don’t necessarily have a purpose or use for them.”

Mr. Trump had touted the prototypes as a major part of his campaign promise to build a border wall. He at one point had suggested he would be personally involved in picking a winning design, and even traveled to the border in San Diego to see the prototypes up close.

But agents said none of the prototypes turned out to be practical, and a government audit concluded that none of them could be built without needing significant modifications.

Congress has also been cool to the prototypes, including language in spending bills preventing the administration from constructing any designs that didn’t already exist under President Obama.

Agents say that’s no big deal, since the bollard-style fence was already good.

But it’s been a black eye for Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly talked about the intricacies of fence design often in contradictory terms.

Earlier this week he bragged that the new wall he’ll be building is more attractive than what had been built in the past.

“We have a much better prototype. It’s actually a beautiful wall,” he said. “You know, I’ve always said part of the wall was that previous administrations, when they did little walls, they built them so badly. So badly. It’s so unattractive. I wouldn’t want them in my backyard. And the new one is incredible looking. It’s a piece of art, in a sense. And it’s, by the way, more effective.”

Asked what the president meant, the CBP official Wednesday demurred, saying she didn’t speak for the president.

When the government asked for bids to build the prototypes, they were supposed to be able to withstand breaching attempts for up to four hours, and to be difficult to climb. They were also supposed to look imposing;

Of the eight prototypes, six of them, had solid construction at ground level, which meant agents didn’t have visibility into Mexico. Agents said that was a major flaw because it meant they couldn’t see folks preparing for an attempt to jump the border, and it also gave bad actors a better chance at ambushing Border Patrol agents.

Two models did have slats at the base, with solid construction at the top.

Some had protruding structures at the very top, which were supposed to deter attempts to climb.

The CBP official said they did learn lessons from the prototypes, such as additional methods for internally hardening bollards used in current fencing.

Part of the reason the walls need to come down is that they’re in the way of real fence construction. The administration is about to begin building a secondary fence in part of San Diego, and the path will run through where the prototypes were built.

In addition to those eight prototypes, another set was built on a separate Border Patrol site. Those were used for breach-testing. The CBP official said those have already been taken down.