Four companies have been chosen to build prototypes for Donald Trump’s planned border wall, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said yesterday.
The four concrete prototypes will be 30ft long and up to 30ft tall, and will be built in the coming months.
Officials will then spend up to two months testing the walls for tampering and penetration resistance using small hand tools, the CBP agency said.
The four contracts are worth up to $500,000 (£387,000) each.
A continuous wall across the entire southern US border was a key promise in President Trump’s election campaign. The prototypes “will help us refine the design standards” of the eventual wall, acting CBP deputy commissioner Ronald Vitiello said.
“Testing will look at things like the aesthetics of it, how penetrable they are, how resistant they are to tampering, and scaling or anti-climb features.”
But he said the officials would stick to small hand tools rather than testing “ballistic kind of things”.
The walls will also need to feature cable conduits and other design features for sensors and cameras.
Once the order to start building is given in the next few weeks, the prototypes are expected to be finished within 30 days.
The four companies to which the contracts were awarded are Caddell Construction, in Montgomery, Alabama; Fisher Industries in Tempe, Arizona; Texas Sterling Construction in Houston, Texas and WG Yates & Sons Construction in Philadelphia.
Mr Vitiello said he did not know if any of the firms had had prior experience in border wall construction.
More than 200 companies are believed to have submitted designs for the proposed border wall.
Four more contracts for prototypes made from materials other than concrete will be announced next week.
Meanwhile Republicans in Washington who had proposed to cut almost $900 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which funds disaster relief, are now said to be rethinking the move in light of the huge recovery operation underway in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.
The border wall, much touted by Mr Trump during his presidential election campaign, is expected to cost around $22 billion, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Last month Mr Trump said he was prepared to force a government shutdown if he does not find the money to build his border wall.
But the clean-up operation required in Texas is thought to have made Republicans reluctant to slash the disaster relief budget for a wall which appears to be losing backing, even among Mr Trump supporters. A survey by Fox News found that 39 per cent of those asked supported the wall, compared to 50 per cent in November 2015.
The same poll appeared to suggest that support for President Trump was also declining, with 56 per cent of voters believing that the president was “tearing the country apart”, compared to 33 per cent who said he was pulling the country together.