President Biden’s border wall order: Understanding what comes next


On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order ending the emergency declaration for the Southwest border wall and redirected funding for the wall. In response, Mary Powers, a respected reporter with Engineering News Record, reached out to our colleague Joe Tyler for information about the order and how it will be implemented given Army Corps of Engineers contracting procedures.


Before joining Dawson & Associates in 2014, Joe spent 40 years with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), including serving as Director for Military Programs from 2006 to 2009. During that time, Joe oversaw the Corps' successful military construction standardization efforts, which included contracting procedures.


What follows are some of Joe’s comments about Army Corps of Engineers contracting procedures and the new executive order:


This is a multi-step process. First, within 7 days, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Defense Department (DoD) and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), all work on the border wall will be paused. This is the stop-work order and it includes all border wall construction regardless of funding source. This also includes an immediate pause on the award of new contracts.


The speed of the stop-work orders will depend on Departmental coordination but my hunch is that The Corps has probably already drafted stop-work orders and is waiting for DHS.


Second, within 60 days, these agencies will develop a plan for how to proceed, including which portions of the wall to continue, which contracts to terminate, and which contracts to repurpose. This will allow determinations about funding and previously contracted, ongoing and paused work. All work is still paused or stopped while the plan is developed.

Third, DoD/USACE and DHS will implement the plan by continuing or modifying contracts as defined in the plan. This will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to terminate, modify, or change existing contracts.


For current contractors, the bottom line is that they will almost certainly try to complete as much work as possible before receiving a stop-work order. That’s because they profit only on completed work.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.