No one should assume that President Donald Trump, who was elected in large part on pledges of tougher enforcement of immigration laws, will ever back down on his promise to build “a big, beautiful wall” on parts of the U.S.-Mexican border that don’t already have walls or fences — even though he’s made little progress to date. U.S. Customs and Border Protection built several prototype walls last year near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego County, but the president has so far been unable to secure the $18 billion for his plan he sought from Congress in January. This ridiculously led him to warn last week that he would shut down the federal government if lawmakers didn’t heed his requests.

That threat seems doubly ridiculous in light of a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last week that provided ample reasons to explain why even Republicans who support an immigration crackdown should have their doubts about building a border wall. The 43-page analysis found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not undertaken basic planning steps to evaluate such factors as the cost-effectiveness and practicality of where to begin constructing the wall, given the different terrains near the border, or to establish metrics that could be used to determine where less expensive methods than walls could be used to increase border security. The GAO warned that because DHS is proceeding with the wall project without key information, the agency faces an increased risk that it “will cost more than projected, take longer than planned or not fully perform as expected.”

This report should surprise no one who has been paying attention to the Trump administration, which on its 500th day in June had not put forth candidates for 204 of 665 key federal jobs requiring Senate confirmation. While the president likes to blame Democrats for thwarting him, sweating the details hasn’t seemed especially important to him.

But even Trump’s biggest fans should expect more out of him. If the president wants better border security, he should strive to do so in a way that gives taxpayers the most bang for their buck. This is no way to launch a multibillion-dollar project, and it gives credence to the theory that Trump isn’t really serious about a border wall beyond delighting in using it as a divisive talking point.

Editorial by The San Diego Union-Tribune

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