Washington, D.C.—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) urgently needs more resources to hire more staff and strengthen border and economic security, the leader of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) told a congressional panel today.
“Many CBP employees are forced to put in long hours of overtime and accept assignments far from home which damages morale,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said at the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
Ongoing CBP staffing shortages directly contribute to the agency’s perennial low ranking in federal employee surveys, he added.
Both CBP and Congress need to do more. CBP needs to improve its hiring process that has delayed the hiring of the 2,000 Officers funded in 2014 and Congress needs to fund the hiring of the remaining 2,107 CBP Officers and the 631 Agriculture Specialists identified in CBP’s 2016 Workload Staffing Model, Reardon told the lawmakers.
“Funding for additional CBP staff must be increased to ensure security and mitigate prolonged wait times for both trade and travel at our nation’s ports of entry,” the NTEU leader said.
NTEU supports a proposal in CBP’s recent budget submission that urges Congress to authorize a $2 increase in customs user fees to pay for the hiring of 2,100 additional CBP Officers needed to address the CBP Officer staffing shortage.
An example of the negative impact that staffing shortages have on CBP Officers can be found at San Ysidro, Calif., where CBP has instituted involuntary temporary duty assignments, or TDYs. Forced TDYs caused by ongoing staffing shortages undermine employee morale and overall recruitment efforts, because the very best recruiters should be current CBP Officers. Unfortunately, based on their experiences with the agency, many officers would not encourage their family members or friends to work for CBP.
Reardon also called on CBP to use available pay flexibilities, such as recruitment awards and special salary rates, to incentivize new and existing CBP Officers to seek vacant positions at hard to fill ports.
“These employees work hard and care deeply about their jobs. They understand that budgets are tight and remain dedicated to performing difficult jobs every day despite the ongoing staffing crisis,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments, including about 25,000 CBP employees.