Border congressman propose ‘smart’ wall
WASHINGTON — Amid a contentious debate in Congress over funding for a border wall, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and a cadre of border state congressmen are bringing out a new plan for a far less-expensive “smart” wall that draws on virtual reality research in Silicon Valley.
Hurd, R-San Antonio, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and several others intend to introduce shortly what they are calling the “Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology Act,” or SMART Act, which they say would cost around $500,000 a mile rather than as much as $25 million as estimated now.
Preparing for the bill, Hurd has consulted Palmer Freeman Luckey, who created Oculus VR, a maker of virtual-reality gear, which he sold to Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion.
Luckey, who accompanied Hurd to the border in June, started a new company that is developing surveillance technology.
Hurd is among border members of Congress who have criticized planning for a contiguous, physical wall. Legislation he has drafted calls for examining “which type of physical barrier, technology, tool or other device” can be used for “situational awareness and operational control” in a Southern border strategy.
The future of the proposal is uncertain given the “big beautiful wall” that President Donald Trump has pressed for. But the president, speaking to reporters while flying to Paris earlier this month, suggested he might be open to technology solutions and asserted for the first time that “you don’t need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers.”
On Friday, the House is expected to approve a broad spending bill that includes $1.6 billion for the wall. But Senate Democrats, who successfully kept wall funding out of spending legislation earlier this year, are certain to forcefully object again.
The new legislation also would authorize $110 million annually over the next five years for Homeland Security’s Operation Stonegarden, which distributes grants to law enforcement agencies.