The eastern EU border is 6000 km long and partially patrolled with drones (I'm not sure to what extent). The southern US border is around 3500 km long, and Mr. Trump has proposed to build a wall to reduce the number of people crossing.

In the debate surrounding the southern US border wall, why don't I hear much about the use of drones? I imagine that 350 drones in the air at any time should be reasonably effective at alerting local law enforcement of undocumented intrusions (10 km to patrol for each drone), but I've only heard Trump about using ancient technology (a wall) rather than modern technology (drones).

Has Mr. Trump or his administration published or otherwise described any evidence-based or otherwise informed (cost/benefit) analysis of a border wall, compared to other methods of policing the border, such as the methods employed by Frontex at the EU eastern border?

Related but different question: Why did many voters support a border wall instead of other border control methods?

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    Is this asking for the internal motivations of Trump?
    – James K
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 10:42
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    @JamesK He may have described why, or his advisors may have written some policy documents outlining why they believe the wall alternative to be more appropriate than other alternatives.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 11:03
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    @JamesK Edited the question for clarification. Does this satisfy your concerns (I don't know if DV and/or VTC are yours)?
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 11:04
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    @user4012 Eastern EU border is 6000 km long yet undocumented crossings occur mainly by the dangerous sea journey, so something must be working. The popular route through East Thrace has been shut. Some asylum seekers crossed from Russia into Norway via an official crossing point, many of those have been deported back to Russia. Are you saying that, even with evidence that someone has crossed from Mexico into the USA clandestinely very recently, that border police do not have the authority to return that person to Mexico? My question had the implicit assumption they do.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 16:43
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    @user4012 Just 1349 documented illegal border crossings through the Eastern Borders route, vs. 182,277 Eastern Mediterranean and 181,459 Central Mediterranean, according to Frontex figures for 2016. Whether this is due to enforcement methods or for other reasons, I don't know. It may be that it has more to do with the fact migrants/refugees do not manage to get into Russia in the first place.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 16:53

3 Answers 3


The GAO (United States Government Accountability Office) apparently thinks that the Trump Administration has not done an adequate assessment of costs and alternatives. See this UPI summary of the GAO findings: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2018/08/06/GAO-Trump-administration-didnt-conduct-full-analysis-of-border-wall-costs/7981533586744/

That article has a link to the published report: https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/693488.pdf which is titled: "CBP Is Evaluating Designs and Locations for Border Barriers but Is Proceeding Without Key Information". The GAO is part of the US Congressional apparatus and is supposed to be an independent entity charged with providing independent (of both the majority party and the executive branch) information about policies and spending of the US Executive. It's website says: "GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save money and work more efficiently." The Comptroller General is appointed for a term of fifteen years, and the current Comptroller was appointed in 2010.

The report does indicate that there are tests underway of the effectiveness of some designs of a "wall" approach.

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    For what it is worth, the GAO ("General Accountability Office") is a governmental agency within the legislative branch and is not part of the "Administration." It's closest analog in the Executive Branch would be the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 19:32
  • @ohwilleke: If I had been able to find an OMB report on the topic I would have included that link.
    – 42-
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 15:04
  • I agree that the GAO report is an evidence based credible study. But, the answer isn't directly responsive to the question: "Has Mr. Trump or his administration published or otherwise described any evidence-based or otherwise informed (cost/benefit) analysis . . . " If there is no OMB report on that topic that would tend to indicate that the answer to the question asked is "no".
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 18:08
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    It's rather surprising that the Trump administration has not attempted a reasoned justification for their particular approach. Instead they continue to attempt to use endorsements by like-minded persons who can have personal or professional "axes to grind". If Trump were tweeting this complaint it would possibly be terminated by "No TRANSPARENCY".
    – 42-
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 0:14

Has Mr. Trump or his administration published or otherwise described any evidence-based or otherwise informed (cost/benefit) analysis of a border wall, compared to other methods of policing the border, such as the methods employed by Frontex at the EU eastern border?


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    This answer may or may not be correct, but I expect more than just a one-word answer.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 3:01
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    This answer should show the research it has taken to come to the conclusion. Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 12:44

No, I didn't find any mentions of the Trump administration publishing an analysis of the effectiveness of a physical wall compared to other border control methods. I think the previous poster's GAO report is probably the best source we're going to get without a FOIA request (meaning, I'm sure they have many reports, but they just haven't published them).

The U.S. Border Patrol uses drones routinely.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) broke a record last year by flying more drone missions along America’s borders than ever before. CBP completed 635 missions in the 2017 fiscal year, totaling over 5,625 hours of flight.

Here's a good article about all the ways the U.S. Border Patrol uses technology to monitor the border.

Here's a quote from the second article which gives some insight into why Trump and many other people want a physical wall:

Back when he was growing up in El Paso, Texas, Escalante recalled, he used to watch hundreds of people literally massing at the frontier with Mexico and then simultaneously rushing across, overwhelming the Border Patrol agents lined up to stop them. These days, that scene doesn't play out anymore, especially not in Arizona where the government has constructed a long fence along the border intended to make it that much harder for anyone to cross over.

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