Reuters: Only $20 million available to build the wall

The DHS has only been able to identify about $20 million to start construction of a wall on the southern border according to an exclusive report by Reuters:

The rapid start of construction, promised throughout Trump’s campaign and in an executive order issued in January on border security, was to be financed, according to the White House, with “existing funds and resources” of the Department of Homeland Security.

But so far, the DHS has identified only $20 million that can be re-directed to the multi-billion-dollar project, according to a document prepared by the agency and distributed to congressional budget staff last week.

The document said the funds would be enough to cover a handful of contracts for wall prototypes, but not enough to begin construction of an actual barrier.

Later in the story, Reuters notes DHS only searched for the money within the $376 million “border security fencing, infrastructure and technology” section of its budget. Taking funds from other areas would require congressional approval.

Clearly, DHS was never going to find billions of dollars for this project by looking at a pot of money this small. In a previous story, Reuters reported the entire barrier could cost as much as $21.6 billion according to a DHS internal report. The White House and GOP leaders in Congress have put forth lower estimates of $12 and $15 billion respectively. But however much it winds up costing, Congress was always going to have to appropriate money to move this forward.

So how much of a roadblock is this really? Congress is working on a budget now which is expected to be presented in a couple months. If there are prototypes to be made and contracts to be worked out that could easily eat up most of that time. By the time the budget passes, maybe the overall effort will have been delayed a few weeks or months. But optimistically, this is a project that will take at least two years to complete. Other estimates suggest the end of Trump’s 1st term is more realistic. In the long run, this delay isn’t going to make a huge difference.