U.S. Sen. John McCain sent a letter to Thomas Winkowski, acting director of Customs and Border Protection, wanting to know why the agency has spent $13 million to build 21 houses in the town of Ajo for CPB agents.

Each house cost $605,000, far more than the $100,000 average for houses in the Southwestern town.

McCain calls such spending "exorbitant" and says in his letter that " ... this project's costs appear to outweigh its benefit to both the local community and to the federal government."

The Republican is asking Winkowski to divulge who authorized the spending and whether there were alternatives available. He also wants to know whether the project received any local or state subsidies.

The two and three-bedroom houses were built in the remote Arizona town as a way to entice CPB agents, who work in the area, to live locally, instead of commuting from distant locations.

The Arizona Republic reported that Border Patrol officials told an Ajo real estate agent that the costs of the housing project increased because of land acquisitions, lease buyouts and and relocating private homeowners.

McCain is asking for a response to his letter by Oct. 1.

Read Sen. John McCain's letter to the CPB: View at Google Docs | Download File