CBP staff lev­els called in­ad­e­quate; border se­cu­rity is com­pro­mised

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The abil­ity of U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion (CBP) to carry out its mis­sion to pro­tect the na­tion’s borders has been “se­ri­ously im­pacted” be­cause of in­ad­e­quate staffing, in­suf­fi­cient train­ing, low morale and high at­tri­tion rates, a gov­ern­ment re­port said Nov. 5.

The Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice said GAO in­ves­ti­ga­tors who vis­ited border cross­ings found CBP of­fi­cers miss­ing from their in­spec­tion booths at some lo­ca­tions and of­fi­cers at other lo­ca­tions who failed to ask the in­ves­ti­ga­tors for proper travel doc­u­ments.

In a 61-page re­port, the GAO said in­suf­fi­cient staffing con­trib­uted to morale prob­lems, fa­tigue, high turnover and safety is­sues that could un­der­mine trav­eler in­spec­tions.

The re­port said that CBP staffing short­falls caused the agency to cut back on re­quired of­fi­cer train­ing and that much of the short­age prob­lem was caused by the de­par­ture of of­fi­cers who ei­ther re­tired or left for other jobs with bet­ter ben­e­fits.

It said that many U.S. ports of en­try were los­ing CBP of­fi­cers faster than they can hire re­place­ments and that GAO in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that weak­nesses in the in­fra­struc­ture of land border cross­ings could al­low peo­ple to en­ter il­le­gally. The re­port said CBP has es­ti­mated that $4 bil­lion in cap­i­tal im­prove­ments are needed.

“We owe the brave men and women charged with keep­ing ter­ror­ists, il­le­gal drugs and other dan­ger­ous peo­ple and items out of the coun­try much bet­ter train­ing and work­ing con­di­tions,” said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Demo­crat, who re­quested the re­port. “Un­der the cir­cum­stances, I am not sur­prised that CBP of­fi­cer morale is poor and at­tri­tion rates are high.”

CBP is a ma­jor com­po­nent of The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment and was formed by com­bin­ing em­ploy­ees from three agen­cies — the U.S. Cus­toms Ser­vice, U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice and in­spec­tors of the Agri­cul­ture De­part­ment. CBPspokesman­MichaelFriel­d­id­not re­turn calls for com­ment on Nov. 5.

The GAO re­port pri­mar­ily ex­am­ined work per­formed by the 17,600 CBP of­fi­cers who staff land, sea and air ports of en­try — as op­posed to U.S. Border Pa­trol agents, who are re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing the land ar­eas be­tween the ports.

Mr. Akaka said the gov­ern­ment should­in­vestin“mak­ingth­e­gate­ways to this coun­try” more se­cure, invit­ing and ef­fi­cient, and pro­vide bet­ter work en­vi­ron­ments for CBP of­fi­cers.

“Se­cur­ing our na­tion’s ports of en­try is a crit­i­cal na­tional-se­cu­rity pri­or­ity,” he said. “Congress must fo­cus more at­ten­tion and re­sources on this is­sue, and I will work to see that it does.”

Mr. Akaka is chair­man of the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs sub­com­mit­tee on over­sight of gov­ern­ment man­age­ment, the fed­eral work force and the Dis­trict of Columbia and will hold hear­ings on the GAO re­port this week.

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