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Biden’s $320M Gaza pier: Over budget and under constant threat, a ‘purely political’ misadventure

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The temporary piers established at President Biden’s order have run way over budget and caused several issues since USAID commenced deliveries, leading some lawmakers to question the value of the operation. 

“At the end of the day, it’s unnecessarily putting our people in harm’s way. It’s costing a lot. It’s pulling assets that should be used elsewhere, and I just don’t think it’s going to accomplish anything near what he’s promised,” Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital in an interview.

President Biden, during his State of the Union speech in March, pledged to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to the territory as millions remain displaced while Israel continues to hunt Hamas. 

The Pentagon announced the completion of the piers – one that would remain several miles offshore while the other acted as a causeway onto the Gazan shore – were completed around May 9 but faced difficulty during deployment over the following week. 

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Waltz said the cost for the project totaled over $300 million, with some reports citing a figure as high as $320 million – which would be double what initial estimates indicated, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told Reuters, calling the operation a “dangerous effort with marginal benefit.” 

The image, provided by U.S. Central Command, shows U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), U.S. Navy sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel Defense Forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, May 16, 2024.  (U.S. Central Command via AP)

Waltz noted that the quoted costs only apply to the first few months of operation: “The longer it’s there, the more those costs are going to skyrocket.” 

“We’ve been briefed that two Navy destroyers are assigned to patrol the waters around the pier,” Waltz said as an example. “Are those being included in their sustained fuel operating costs? The cost of their crew? That’s unclear … and then there’s opportunity cost, right? Those destroyers and other assets, air assets or what have you, are being dedicated to secure this thing from any type of drone or land attack that could be rested and refit in the U.S. and could be used elsewhere.” 

Biden pier problems

The U.S. Army landing craft mechanized (LCM) was beached while trying to retrieve a piece of the temporary pier that broke off while in transit.  (Fox News )

The main issue, according to Waltz, is that the delivery outside of Gaza has not been the issue, but rather what happens once the aid is delivered across the border, at which point the aid faces the same issues as land-based delivery. 

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“It’s going to run into the exact same problems the land routes have faced once it gets across the border,” Waltz argued.  “The trucks get ransacked. They get attacked. When they do make it to the warehouse, it’s Hamas controlling the warehouses.”

“Whether the trucks come from the sea or whether they come from land, they’re going to run into the same buzzsaw of issues once they get inside, and it is the Palestinian, you know, the poor Palestinian people and kids that suffer in the end,” Waltz continued. 

“Because of corruption and because they’re being run by a terrorist dictatorship that is going to use aid to, one, feed and arm and resource itself, with more nutrients and medical supplies and fuel and what have you,” he added. “Then, secondarily, use it as a lever to make sure the Palestinian people don’t rise up against them.”

Deliveries have not hit the desired level since the piers commenced shipments last week: Trucks started entering the Gaza Strip on May 17, with plans to scale up to 150 truckloads a day, but the pier has run into a number of issues, including damage to one of the piers on Saturday as the military tried to move them due to “sea conditions.” 

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Gaza looters.

Looters take aid from a truck. Majdi Fathi/TPS-IL (Majdi Fathi/TPS-IL)

The move, attempted overnight Friday, led to a piece of one pier detaching from the line and floated ashore. A U.S. army landing craft mechanized (LCM) tried to rescue the piece and got stuck when a cable wrapped around its propeller – another unforeseen cost. 

The U.S. Army and Navy worked throughout the day with Israeli counterparts to free the equipment, according to a U.S. defense official.

JLOTS pier for Gaza

CENTCOM tweeted that the “construction of the floating JLOTS pier in the Mediterranean is underway.” (Photo: CENTCOM.) (CENTCOM)

Waltz listed a number of other issues that have plagued the operation, from logistical issues to weather disruptions and security threats. 

“Just getting the amount of material out there in what is often a rough sea state, in a very difficult environment, has been a problem,” Waltz explained. “Then, I think we just have this false notion of no boots on the ground coming from Biden and the administration.”

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“I mean, technically, there’s no boots touching sand, but they’re on a dock that’s touching the sand, and we confirmed at a hearing they’re very close to shore,” he continued. “They are within small arms range of any militants that want to fire on them from Gaza, much less the types of drones or missiles that we’ve seen in the Red Sea.”

“We do know that the dock and the entire complex has come under mortar fire, already, so, again, this is putting our service members in harm’s way unnecessarily,” he stressed.

CENTCOM tweeted on X that, “The pier will support @USAID and humanitarian partners to receive and deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. @USTRANSCOM and @USEUCOM support the movement of #humanitarianaid.” (Photo: CENTCOM.) (CENTCOM)

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters on Tuesday that crowds have stopped the trucks at various points along the route after the trucks arrived on land, leading to a sort of “self-distribution” of the deliveries. 

“These trucks were traveling through areas where there’d been no aid. I think people feared that they would never see aid. They grabbed what they could,” Dujarric said, according to Newsweek

Pentagon Spokesman Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder also commented earlier in the week that the aid was “not flowing at a rate that any of us are happy with.

Ultimately, Waltz argued that the piers have proven a project initiated for “purely political reasons.” 

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“When you have over 100,000 Democrats in the state of Michigan … go and vote against him in the Democrat primary – over 100,000 – that is a heck of a scary political moment for this White House,” Waltz said. 

“We’ve seen the policy shifts towards Israel ever since, from Schumer calling for regime change on the Senate floor to the kind of bashing of Netanyahu, to the promising a change in policy if the Israelis carry out their offensive in Rafah … that has all been a signal to the youth vote,” Waltz added. 

During an on-record call on Thursday, defense officials confirmed to reporters that three U.S. service members had been injured while supporting a mission to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. All injuries were non-combat-related with one person being listed in critical condition.

The White House did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment by time of publication. 

Fox News’ Greg Wehner contributed to this report. 

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