How much time will Homeland Security need to build the wall on the southern border? Newly installed DHS Secretary John Kelly says he can get it done within two years. In an interview last night with Fox News, Kelly said his team will target the highest-risk areas of the border first, and then complete the wall around those:
In his first television interview as Homeland Security secretary, retired four-star Marine Gen. John F. Kelly told Fox News he wants the U.S.-Mexico border wall finished in two years – setting an ambitious schedule for the project ordered last week by President Trump.
“The wall will be built where it’s needed first, and then it will be filled in. That’s the way I look at it,” Kelly said. “I really hope to have it done within the next two years.” …
“Any discussion about the protection of our southwest border involves discussion of physical barriers but also of technological sensors, things like that,” he said. “But it’s a layered approach, and it’s got to be backed up by great men and women who are going to make sure that the wall is intact.”
Two years certainly would be … ambitious. At the moment, Kelly doesn’t have funding for it, and he’s certainly aware of that:
But first, the department faces the tough task of funding – and then building – what would be the largest-ever construction project undertaken by the president who made his name in real estate. …
“We’re looking at the money aspect,” he acknowledged. But he said the White House is working with Congress on the timetable.
“I think the funding will come relatively quickly and like I said, we will build it where it’s needed first as identified by the men and women who work the border,” Kelly emphasized.
Money? No problem, House Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox & Friends this morning. The executive branch already has the authorization to build the wall from the 2005-6 effort to get it built, and the money will follow … soon. “It’s really up to them,” Ryan said, “as to how fast they can execute this policy.” Not entirely:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 2, 2017
The money’s coming, but the question is when. Ryan wants to get it into the FY2018 budget in order to keep from destabilizing the upcoming talks on finishing off the FY2017, which has been pushed back by continuing resolutions since last fall. The project will get between $12 billion and $15 billion from Congress in the fall, but that means waiting for at least nine months to get started. That will leave much of the project incomplete by the time the midterm elections come around, when Team Trump clearly wants to demonstrate that they’ve delivered on their promise.
In this case, patience is needed on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Ryan may be able to get a down payment on the funding in the upcoming omnibus talks, especially since budgets are not subject to filibusters in the Senate, without giving away too much in return. Either way, though, the wall is coming, and well before 2020 when its political impact matters most, if Kelly’s estimate is accurate.
Fox News did its interview with Kelly during his inspection of the border in Texas, where the DHS Secretary got reminded by Greg Abbott that trade matters along with security: