Customs and Border Protection is chronically short-staffed and taxpayers and the global economy are getting badly short-changed.
NTEU is in the forefront of the fight to secure additional funding for CBP, which plays an important role in preserving our national and economic security and in promoting international trade, commerce and tourism.
We are pressing CBP and Congress to fix the growing personnel shortage. CBP needs to improve its hiring process, which has delayed the hiring of the 2,000 CBP Officers funded in 2014. And Congress needs to come up with the money to hire an additional 2,107 CBP Officers and the 631 Agriculture Specialists that studies say it needs to be effective. NTEU supports the Obama administration’s proposal for Congress to authorize a $2 increase in customs user fees to hire 2,100 additional CBP Officers.
Ongoing CBP staffing shortages directly contribute to the agency’s perennial low ranking in federal employee surveys. NTEU has told Congress how CBP Officers in particular are demoralized by having to work 12-15 hour shifts for months and many are sent to work far from their families in the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry. CBP has instituted involuntary temporary duty assignments, or TDYs, to bring people from other ports to work in San Ysidro. Not having enough Agriculture Specialists poses an additional threat to the U.S. farming sector, which generates $1 trillion in economic activity per year.
Staffing problems also mean CBP is unable to collect enough customs duties and revenue. This shortchanges taxpayers and hurts American companies who lose business to imports. Customs duties and fees form the second biggest source of federal revenues—second only to taxes—generating more than $46 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2015.
As of January 2016, CBP had 2,463 employees in revenue occupations—214 short of the level Congress authorized for that staffing category. Some key positions have never been adequately staffed from CBP’s inception, despite the rapid increase in trade volumes. For instance, there were 984 Import Specialists when CBP was created in March 2003, but the agency had only 935 people in that position this past January.
Unless Congress fixes this problem, CBP will have even bigger problems in the future. A quarter of the agency’s import specialists will retire or become eligible to do so over the next few years.
NTEU backs the White House’s proposal to give CBP $12.9 billion in FY 2017—5.2 percent more than this year’s budget.