Federal Employees News Digest

Stressed CBP on track for new hires

The National Treasury Employees Union has gotten behind an appropriations bill measure to surge hiring at Customs and Border Protection.

The funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, currently advancing in Congress, calls for CBP to hire some 1,200 more officers, several hundred Agriculture Specialists and additional port staff.

“Excessive overtime, double-shifts and temporary duty assignments to the Southern border are taking a toll on the men and women of CBP, and this legislation would go a long way toward improving their safety and the efficiency of the entire agency,” Tony Reardon, NTEU’s president, said in a press release.

The bill would add $151 million to address much-publicized staff shortages severely affecting operations at ports of entry. The bill also would provide $242 million in additional technology to be brought to bear on the agency’s mission.

The agency’s own data shows a shortfall of approximately 3,700 Customs and Border Protection Officers and other key staff, specifically at ports of entry. The understaffing remains “a threat to employee safety and hamper the efficient processing of legitimate trade and travel,” according to the release.

“NTEU commends House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California for recognizing the peril caused by CBP’s staffing shortage and taking strong action to alleviate it,” Reardon said.

Specific staffing improvements at CBP

The extra staff would come as a big help in reducing the burden on staff of a massive surge of immigrants along the southern border of the U.S.—with 133,000 border crossers apprehended in May along the frontier by CBP, a 13-year high.

The reason behind the tsunami levels of migrants crossing into the United States, according to agency sources and media reports, is increasingly poor conditions in several Central America countries—reportedly the origin of most of those arriving in recent waves.

The agency recently announced various planned improvements to its increasingly stressed operations—including the creation of a new position to help in border areas: the Border Patrol Processing Coordinator.

The Border Patrol Processing Coordinator will “perform administrative tasks related to the intake and processing of individuals apprehended by Border Patrol agents and brought back to stations,” CBP stated in an announcement. “The position will also assume responsibilities for transporting individuals and property in Border Patrol custody, as well as custodial watch of detainees in hospitals.”

The new slot is needed because “[as] a result of the humanitarian and border security crisis, 40 percent of the Border Patrol agents on the Southwest border are currently conducting processing, transportation, care and hospital watch, feeding, and cleaning duties instead of frontline law enforcement responsibilities,” the announcement added.

CBP plans to start the hiring process for the position by fiscal 2020.

“I am committed to providing the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol the resources they need to accomplish their border security mission,” Carla Provost, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, said in an announcement. “Border Patrol Processing Coordinators will take on processing, transportation, and custody responsibilities, which will free up agents for critical law enforcement operations.”

CBP announced just over a month ago yet another personnel measure aimed at addressing its understaffing problem: the agency will put in place a new 5 percent retention incentive for all GS-12 and GS-13 Border Patrol agents.


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