Washington, D.C. – Congress should provide $100 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2019 to hire hundreds more Officers and Agriculture Inspectors at the ports of entry where staffing shortages continue to plague safety and efficiency, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said today.
“The Office of Field Operations is the largest component of CBP and is responsible for border security –including anti-terrorism, immigration, anti-smuggling, trade compliance, and agriculture protection—while simultaneously facilitating lawful trade and travel at U.S. ports of entry that are critical to our nation’s economy,” Reardon wrote in testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
Specifically, Reardon said the $100 million should go toward hiring 500 more CBP Officers, 100 Agriculture Specialists and additional trade enforcement staff. The 328 air, sea and land ports of entry currently need an additional 2,518 Officers and 721 Agriculture Specialists in order to meet the agency’s own workload staffing model.
The staffing shortage, as Reardon has warned in previous congressional hearings, is at crisis levels, forcing CBP employees to work excessive overtime and take temporary duty assignments at ports far from home. NTEU was pleased that the 2018 omnibus appropriations law included funding to hire more than 300 new CBP Officers, but the hiring surge needs to continue until the shortage is alleviated.
Reardon also opposed the administration’s short-sighted proposal to increase user fees to pay for new hiring because Congress has rejected the idea repeatedly over the last few years.
In addition to facilitating legitimate trade and travel at the ports, CBP needs additional personnel to staff the international mail and express consignment carrier facilities where illegal shipments of fentanyl and other opioids should be caught. At the FedEx hub in Memphis, for example, CBP personnel processed 86 million packages last year with only 24 CBP Officers.
“Considering the volume at the FedEx hub, NTEU has been told that the port requires a minimum of 60 CBP Officers to facilitate the flow of legitimate freight and ensure successful interdiction of these synthetic chemicals,” Reardon said.
Finally, Reardon urged the appropriators to fund another 140 positions at the CBP Office of Trade. In 2017, CBP processed more than $2 trillion in imports and collected about $40 billion in duties, taxes, and other fees. Since CBP was established in March 2003, however, there has been no increase in non-uniformed CBP trade enforcement and compliance personnel even though inbound trade volume grew by more than 24 percent between FY 2010 and FY 2014.
According to the Joint Economic Committee, 1.1 million people and $5.9 billion in goods legally enter and exit through the ports of entry every day, and delays cost the U.S. economy upwards of $5 billion each year.
“Increasing CBP Officer staffing at the ports-of-entry is an economic driver for the U.S. economy,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.