CBP staff levels called inadequate; border security is compromised
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.