Re­port: DHS wasted over $5 mil­lion on poly­graphs

Po­ten­tial hires were al­ready dis­qual­i­fied

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Home­land Se­cu­rity paid for poly­graph ex­ams for more than 2,300 po­ten­tial hires at Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, even though they had al­ready ad­mit­ted to drug use or crim­i­nal be­hav­ior that would have dis­qual­i­fied them any­way, the depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral said in a new re­port this week.

The poly­graphs cost $2,200 a pop, mean­ing the depart­ment blew more than $5 mil­lion on tests that were ir­rel­e­vant even be­fore they be­gan, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

CBP, which over­sees Bor­der Pa­trol agents and the of­fi­cers who op­er­ate the of­fi­cial ports of en­try, has been strug­gling to hire agents, with its strin­gent re­quire­ments weed­ing most ap­pli­cants out. Pres­i­dent Trump’s call for an ad­di­tional 5,000 agents to be added to the force has only com­pli­cated mat­ters.

“Given its plans to hire 5,000 ad­di­tional Bor­der Pa­trol Agents, it is im­por­tant that CBP fo­cus its re­sources on the most qual­i­fied and suit­able ap­pli­cants,” said In­spec­tor Gen­eral John Roth.

The waste of money and time on ap­pli­cants who have no chance of serv­ing is likely to in­flame con­cerns on Capi­tol Hill, where law­mak­ers are ques­tion­ing whether the Bor­der Pa­trol needs — or can prop­erly hire — that many new agents.

In a re­port last month the in­spec­tor gen­eral said CBP has yet to jus­tify that surge in staffing. Au­di­tors said given the hir­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, it would take an es­ti­mated 750,000 ap­pli­ca­tions to fill the 5,000 po­si­tions.

Ap­pli­cants for law en­force­ment po­si­tions at CBP are re­quired sub­mit a num­ber of forms and do a poly­graph, which in­volves a pre-exam in­ter­view, then the ac­tual exam, and then a post-exam in­ter­view to go over the re­sults.

But nearly one in five ap­pli­cants will­ingly ad­mits in the first in­ter­view to crim­i­nal be­hav­ior or drug use that makes them in­el­i­gi­ble. The prob­lem was that CBP didn’t al­ways ter­mi­nate their ap­pli­ca­tions, and some 2,300 of them went on to have poly­graphs any­way — though there was no way they could be hired.

The list of dis­qual­i­fy­ing ad­mis­sions was stun­ning. Some ap­pli­cants ad­mit­ted to drug smug­gling or hu­man traf­fick­ing.

CBP, in its of­fi­cial re­ply to the re­port, agreed with the find­ings and said it’s al­ready taken steps. As of June 12, a new process was in place to have poly­graph ex­am­in­ers check any po­ten­tially dis­qual­i­fy­ing pre-exam in­ter­view in­for­ma­tion with ad­ju­di­ca­tors to make sure the can­di­date is still vi­able be­fore going ahead with the poly­graph.

“Since the new pol­icy was is­sued, CBP is not aware of any pol­icy vi­o­la­tions that have oc­curred,” Sean M. Mil­drew, the se­nior com­po­nent ac­count­abil­ity of­fi­cial at CBP, said in re­ply.

The poly­graph has be­come a con­tro­ver­sial part of the CBP hir­ing process.

In or­der to speed up the process of get­ting new Bor­der Pa­trol agents into the field, some law­mak­ers have pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing the need for a poly­graph exam for ac­tive-duty law en­force­ment or mil­i­tary troops who al­ready have se­cu­rity clear­ances.

A bill with some of those changes cleared the House ear­lier this year, though op­po­nents — in­clud­ing im­mi­grant-rights groups — say they fear a stream­lined process will fail to weed out po­ten­tial bad agents.

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