Trump’s Border Wall Will Cost Billions More Than Projected

A new government report indicates that President Trump's border wall will cost billions more than initially projected. And Mexico still isn't going to pay for it.

The Government Accountability Office is reporting that President Trump’s border wall could end up costing billions of dollars more than currently projected:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration could potentially waste billions of dollars on a border wall because it failed to fully account for factors like varying terrain and land ownership along the Southwest border, according to a new report.

The report, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, found that Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for construction of the wall, did not consider the cost of building along each segment of the border, which can vary depending on factors such as topography and land ownership.

The report also found that the agency selected locations for barriers without fully assessing where they were needed to prevent illegal border crossings.

“Without assessing costs, consistent with leading practices for capital decision making, C.B.P. does not have complete information for prioritizing locations to use its resources in the most cost-effective manner,” the report said.

It added that the Department of Homeland Security “faces an increased risk that the Border Wall System Program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned or not fully perform as expected.”

The report provided new ammunition for congressional opponents of the wall.

“This report exposes what we have suspected would happen for over a year,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee. “The Trump administration, fixated on campaign promises no matter the cost or consequences, is rushing the construction of the president’s completely unnecessary border wall.”

Mr. Thompson requested the report along with Representative Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat.

“The report shows us what we already knew: The Trump administration put almost zero thought into the construction of this wall other than how it will play in the news cycle,” Mr. Vela said.

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the border wall was needed.

“Walls have proven to be extremely effective at deterring illegal entries and the smuggling of illicit drugs into the United States,” she said. “The initial prioritization for developing barriers in each location or segment was based on an operational assessment of priorities including current risks and threats, which was followed by a resource analysis that factored in cost.”

This report is, of course, just the latest complication that the President’s pet project, which has been a center point of his immigration policy from the day he launched his campaign, has faced since he became President. From the beginning, of course, the entire idea of a massively high wall stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico has never exactly seemed to be realistic. For one thing, the President’s biggest claim, that Mexico would somehow agree or be forced to pay for the wall was always a ridiculous idea that nobody outside of the White House and the President’s most gung-ho supporters took seriously. That point was made even more self-evident when the White House began to include at least initial funding for the project in its budget requests to Congress. With the exception of a small amount of money that was authorized to fund feasibility studies and other early work on the project, none of that funding has ever been approved by Congress. This has resulted in the President striking out at various times with threats to force a government shutdown if he didn’t receive the funding he was demanding, including one that was made just a few weeks ago notwithstanding the fact that members of Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate have made clear that they are not going to shut the government down on the eve of an election. At one point, Trump even suggested that he could redirect money allocated for the Defense Department to pay for the wall, although he has not taken that step as of yet. In any case, because of these disputes, the project is way behind schedule and at this point clearly unlikely to be completed by the end of the President’s first term assuming that it ever actually begins.

Even before this report, the prospects for Trump’s wall were not looking good at all. In addition to the fact that Congress was resisting funding the project, the American public was most certainly not behind the idea. In essentially every poll that has been taken on the subject since the start of the year — see here, here, and here just for a few examples — a majority of Americans oppose construction of the wall and do not favor the idea of either shutting down the government or redirecting funds from the Department of Defense or any other branch of government to pay for it. This latest report, which makes it clear that the idea that building the wall would be cheap and easy was a lie from the start, is only likely to increase that opposition. In the end, I suspect that Congress will toss some money Trump’s way, call it funding for “the wall” and let him pretend he won something when he actually didn’t.

Here’s the report:

Border Wall Report by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    President Pud sez:..I’m from the Government and I’m here to help!

  2. TM01 says:

    So I guess it suffers from the same ailment as every other govt program.

    Maybe we could build an inexpensive high-speed rail system along the border and just put up warning signs along the tracks to cross at your own risk.

    Start building in CA and head east.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s so pathetic. Tony Soprano is cornered in the White House and desperately wants to leave something physical behind as proof of his greatness: his pyramid, his Nelson’s column, his Arc de Triomphe. And despite controlling both houses of Congress he can’t get it done because of his own incompetence.

    The more Trump tries and fails the more impotent he is and the more people laugh at him, which just makes him still more insecure so he needs his wall even more. I really do try to avoid being cruel or taking pleasure from cruelty, but the spectacle of the Great Dealmaker unable to get his stupid wall through his own servile Congress is delicious.

    Fcking with Trump’s fragile ego has become a game, like teasing your cat with a laser pointer, or hiding the bone from your object permanence-impaired dog. Kim Jong Un plays it, Chairman Xi plays it, Michael Cohen and Manafort and Gates and Omarosa all play it. Chase the light, Don! Ah hah hah, look at him fall over!

    This time, Charlie Don, I am totally going to hold the wall for you so you can kick it. I swear. Now, get a good running start. . . Wheee!

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Nice try. Did Jerry Brown say Mexico would pay for the train? Did howling mobs of goobers actually believe that?

    Tell us, TM, were you one of the fools who fell for, “Mexico will pay,’ or are you, like @MBunge, prepared to admit that not only is Trump a pathological liar but that you’ve known all along he was lying?

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    So I guess it suffers from the same ailment as every other govt program.

    Ah…but your dear leader ran on being the only guy that could change all that.
    When are you going to admit you got conned?

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tony Soprano

    Dennison is a Tony Soprano wanna-be. He aspires to be a make-believe gangster. The problem is that the idiot got caught up with real Russian gangsters.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Gee, anyone surprised?

    And to those who claim all government programs come in over budget–erm, not necessarily. JPL actually has a very good track record of getting things launched on time and on budget.

    Of course, the people running JPL are scientists and engineers, which may make a difference…..

  8. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tony Soprano is cornered in the White House

    That’s really low, Michael. Tony Soprano is a highly intelligent character who doesn’t deserve to be compared to an idiot like Trump.

  9. Kathy says:

    Of course Mexico won’t pay for it. But I hear there’s work being done on a wooden horse.

  10. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s going to be Trump’s Maginot Line.

  11. KM says:

    Put it up for a national referendum. All those who vote for it have to chip in $1000 (non-refundable) to show their sincerity and ability to pay for this monstrosity. Should the referendum fail, the money raised will go to educational programs so that a population stupid enough to believe Donald Trump when he said Mexico would pay for this gets a little less stupid. Anyone who whines about having to put a deposit down on the Wall (or that they don’t have that kind of money at all) completely misses the point they’re going to have to pay for the ^%#*$*%$(* thing anyways if they win and thus should be ignored as the morons they are.

    Let the people speak! As Ingraham noted, we didn’t vote for this so let’s see if red state America is willing to put it’s money where it’s mouth is.

  12. inhumans99 says:


    TMo1, you have proven to yourself to be ignorant and proud of it but I am replying anyway. I suspect that the government would have to pony up some serious money for eminent domain land seizures to put up the wall where it will cross through private property.

    I bet there are some folks in TX who would develop a white hot rage against the government (even one with President Trump on the throne) if they did not pay them lots of money to seize their property for a wall (even one designed to keep out illegals).

    That is what will add a ton of money to the cost of the wall, lord help the poor schlub who has to knock on a door in TX and tell the person they are seizing their land for the wall, even if this poor soul had a MAGA hat on I suspect they would still be about to get the mother of all beat downs.

  13. KM says:


    Yep. If he had brains, he would have done what Disney did with the Florida Project. Buy up the land cheap under fictitious companies before word gets out about what it’s for and prices rise. Right now, anyone with land sitting on the border KNOWS the government might come calling and that land just went up in value. Eminent domain can be used to screw them out of a “fair price” but let’s be honest, they weren’t expecting going prices as is.

    Everyone’s expecting a payday out of this and are going to be PISSED if they get less then they think they are due. Imagine someone like Bundy being told the government’s taking their land and here’s a couple grand for it, be grateful since we’re trying to save taxpayers money!! If this doesn’t involve at least one shootout over “stolen land” before all’s said and done, I’ll donate my car to charity.

  14. george says:


    So I guess it suffers from the same ailment as every other govt program.

    Which automatically includes the military, the police and justice systems. I presume you’re in favor in reducing the size (or eliminating) those as well, given your position on government?

  15. Cleve Watson says:

    So, will it cost less than the billions we now pay in social services, school expansion, court and prison costs, law enforcement, tax fraud, border enforcement, and other outlays that we now pay?

  16. Jen says:

    @inhumans99: There are eminent domain takings from back in 2006 (Secure Fence Act) that are still in the court system, from when Bush tried to secure weak border points after 9/11.

    Still. In. Court.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Cleve Watson:

    So, will it cost less than the billions we now pay in social services, school expansion, court and prison costs, law enforcement, tax fraud, border enforcement, and other outlays that we now pay?

    Actually immigration, legal and illegal, is a net plus for the economy. Of course you wouldn’t know that because it reflects actual data and not your emotions.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @TM01: “So I guess it suffers from the same ailment as every other govt program.”

    It’s interesting that this feature doesn’t bother you when it’s a program that you want.


  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM: “… the money raised will go to educational programs so that a population stupid enough to believe Donald Trump when he said Mexico would pay for this gets a little less stupid. ”

    You’ve clearly never watched as *remedial* students push themselves through/jump off the safety net. It is a sight to behold.

  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Charlie Don

    Charlie Orange

  22. JohnMcC says:

    I’ve watched the administration’s travails with this stupid project with some interest. It seemed to me that if Trump could succeed at anything, ANYTHING! – it would be building a wall.

    Never mind getting Mexico to pay. Never mind how tall, formidable or grand it would be. Never mind some areas of the Sonora Desert or the Rio Grand watershed. Bound to be some problems. Just BUILD A WALL.

    Christ on a crutch! The man claims to be a builder!

    Hey – if he fails utterly to build a wall – waddaya think?

  23. Matt says:

    @inhumans99: People along the border are already mad from Bush Jr’s attempts at stealing their land. Those court cases are still being fought…

  24. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    There is no way to build this wall. Maybe, maybe it would be possible to do it between El Paso and San Diego. It would be extremely expensive, but in theory it could be done. Between El Paso and Brownsville you’d need to effectively block access to the Rio Grande from the American side.

    It’s idiotic.

  25. Tyrell says:

    A concrete wall is from ages past. An invisible, high tech wall is cheaper, safer, and more efficient. State of the art technology could be used: sound amplification, lights that temporarily affect vision, and special netting.
    They could also set up a bunch of Starbucks. People can go in and just hang around, according to their new policy.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: Great! We could build this amazing invisible fence. Why not? My neighbors have one for their chihuahuas. Now if we can get them greasers to put those collars on just right….

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Lava Land: I suggest you read up on a bit of history, dearie. Also a bit of contract law. How is Mexico going to pay us this money, especially since they haven’t agreed to pay it?

    Do you regularly try to siphon money for your own use out of your neighbour by just demanding it?

  28. al Ameda says:

    This is a (completely unnecessary) triumphalist Vanity Project.

    Never mind the fact that, since 2009, net immigration at the southern border
    has been close to zero.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Whoa! Tyrell has perfected force field technology! Quick, throw a bag over his head and get him whisked away to Area 51.

  30. JohnMcC says:

    @Lava Land: Gosh, someone here has SEEN the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. And the Pancho Villa Expedition. Wow!

    Someone who can really teach us about the history of the U.S. behavior along it’s southern border. We are SO grateful.

  31. KM says:

    @Lava Land:
    You’re not the only former border state resident, you know. There are plenty of pissed off people who don’t want their land stolen or undersold for this wall. The whole point was supposed to be protection so they can live in peace but you want to kick them off their land for it? Some of these farms and ranches are generations old, stretching back to before the US border reached there and there’s a deep sense of history and attachment. They’re not going to go peacefully even if they believe in the cause.

    Furthermore, Mexico was NEVER going to pay for this and only a $^#*^%*^%$*$$ would have ever thought a foreign nation would agree to fund such a project against their will. This was ALWAYS going to be our bill and that means taxpayer concerns (ie nearly everyone in the country) have sway, not just border-state residents. If they want the wall so damn bad, why don’t the southern states just build their own and maintain them? Sure they can’t do it under the auspices of the feds but what exactly is stopping them from constructing an enormous physical barrier other then cost and logistics? WTF can’t Texas get it’s act together and build a 300ft high wall 3 or some miles in and just go states’ rights?

  32. Matt says:

    @Lava Land: I can’t even figure out what that word salad is supposed to mean. I live along the border and no one is being kicked off their land by Illegal immigrants. The federal government on the other hand is trying to kick a whole lot of people off their land for that stupid wall..