People pass graffiti along the border structure in Tijuana, Mexico. Credit: Julie Watson/Associated Press

Although Congress has blocked funding this year to build President Donald Trump’s promised border wall, his administration announced Friday it is moving forward with plans to develop designs.

In a notice posted to the federal contracting site fbo.gov, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the agency has completed its first phase of evaluating “white paper” design prototypes for a concrete wall and other prototypes.

The agency said it will notify those who submitted the top proposals over the next several days to invite them to build prototypes as part of a second phase. In its notice Customs and Border Protection said it will not release detailed information about the selection process, the exact number or names of bidders chosen to build prototypes. The original request for proposals said that up to 20 bidders would be selected for the second phase.

Carlos Diaz, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, wrote in an email that the second phase is still considered part of the bidding process, and names cannot be released.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has asked for those records through the Freedom of Information Act, but the agency has not yet responded to the request.

In an earlier notice, the agency said it projects that proposals for phase two will be due by the end of the month. Bidders will learn the exact due date as part of instructions for the second phase. Diaz said the agency anticipates awarding contracts this summer.

The spending deal that averted a government shutdown does not provide funding this year for Trump’s signature border wall. However, Congress approved a Department of Homeland Security request in March to reprogram $20 million to begin plans for the wall and award construction bids for four to eight prototypes, Diaz said in an email.

“Planning includes use of US Army Corps of Engineers and architecture and engineering support for real estate, environmental and wall design efforts,” Diaz wrote.

The $1 trillion budget provides $1.5 billion for border security, including funds to replace 40 miles of existing fence using current designs over the next four and a half years.

The issue of a new wall will likely arise again in the coming weeks as Congress debates funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, a House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman confirmed.

“Make no mistake, the wall is going to be built,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters after a 2017 budget deal was reached.

Congressional leaders have appeared less than enthusiastic about a wall, while more outspoken critics like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have voiced strong opposition.

A Homeland Security Department memo leaked earlier this year estimated the cost to be $21.6 billion. A report by Democrats on the Senate homeland security committee projected the cost could approach $70 billion.

Andrew Becker can be reached at abecker@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ABeckerReveal.

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.