Abbott’s Border Military Base Could Cost Texans $500 Million

National Guard soldiers deployed in Eagle Pass will enjoy “chef-driven meals,” a fitness center, a lounge, a sand volleyball court, and an arcade.


Justin Miller has brown hair, a light beard and mustache and is wearing a corduroy button down over a dark t-shirt.

Last Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference in Eagle Pass, the border town he has turned into a militarized staging ground for his standoff with the feds. It was his third such press conference in as many weeks. Flanked by his appointed border czar and the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard, Abbott announced that he is building a sprawling 80-acre base camp that would allow the state to permanently “amass a large army in a strategic area.” 

The base camp is already under construction, he said, and when complete will house 1,800 soldiers—with the ability to expand to 2,300 if such a surge is needed. Abbott did not provide specifics about the cost of the massive military installation, saying it would be “minimal” and that it would save money in the long run by lowering other temporary lodging expenses. 

That “minimal” cost is, however, a large one. The Texas Military Department will pay a state contractor $171 million to build and operate the base camp over the next nine months, according to purchase order records reviewed by the Texas Observer. That figure includes over $30 million to “mobilize” the camp and $14.5 million in monthly operating expenses. 

“Before this effort here, they had been living in conditions that were atypical for military operations,” Abbott said at the news conference, according to the Texas Tribune. “Because of the magnitude of what we’re doing, because of the need to sustain and actually expand our efforts of what we’re doing, it’s essential that we build this base camp for the soldiers.”

The camp won’t reach its capacity of 1,800 until late October, according to the contractor’s proposal. Beginning in September, the state has the option to extend the base operations for each of the next two years, according to the purchase order. The two extensions would cost Texas taxpayers $350 million on top of the original $171 million—bringing the possible total to over half a billion dollars. 

The Legislature has approved over $10 billion in total funding for Abbott’s three-year-old border scheme Operation Lone Star (OLS), and the governor and state attorney general are deploying increasingly militaristic rhetoric about the border in both press conferences and courtrooms. Abbott’s new base camp is a clear sign that his border operation isn’t going away any time soon.

At the press conference, along with a line of armed soldiers and military vehicles, was a large sign announcing the new home of the Texas Military’s “Forward Operating Base,” invoking the lingo of the U.S. Department of Defense’s huge, permanent outposts built to sustain wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and enrich contractors along the way. 

The Texas Military Department signed off on the base camp plan with Team Housing Solutions, a New Braunfels company, which will build and operate the facility. The contract for this project—like most OLS deals—was awarded without competitive bidding, due to Abbott’s perpetual border disaster declaration that suspends state contracting laws. 

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The camp, which will be situated right on the Rio Grande several miles south of Shelby Park, will feature 51 dorms, 15 “executive suites”, three command centers, two motor pools, boat maintenance facilities, and a helipad, according to the Team Housing Solutions proposal. National Guard soldiers deployed in Eagle Pass will also enjoy a host of amenities including a 15,000-square-foot dining facility with 24-hour service of “chef-driven meals” and “buffet style meals,” a fully equipped fitness center, a recreation center with a library and arcade, an outdoor basketball court, and a sand volleyball court. 

The permanent accommodations are a far cry from the early days of Operation Lone Star, when Abbott rushed to deploy thousands of soldiers to the border without adequate housing, supplies, or support services in place. Now, with plenty of funding and operational experience, the Military Department is spending like never before. 

The state military already has at least two other border base camps in Del Rio and Laredo. Team Housing Solutions built and operates those as well; last September, the state signed a purchase order extending those operations through this August at an estimated cost of about $110 million, along with a $140 million order to provide hotel and motel lodging for soldiers, according to purchasing records. 

The governor’s office and the Texas Military Department did not immediately respond to the Observer’s requests for comment.

Abbott’s base camp announcement comes amid his increasingly hostile posturing toward the federal government over immigration and border enforcement—including an ongoing legal battle over the Texas Guard’s installation of razor wire and access to a public park along the banks of the Rio Grande. 

On Tuesday, the Military Department purchased $2.3 million worth of concertina wire from the Texas prison system, courtesy of the unpaid labor of state inmates. 

Texas’ new “Forward Operating Base” will, Abbott indicated at his Eagle Pass press conference, allow the governor’s army to double down on his efforts to show up the federal government at all costs.