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CBP Furloughs Would Put Nation At Risk; Create Hardships for CBP Employees

Thursday, February 21 2013

Washington, D.C.—The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) has been informed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that agency-wide furlough notices of up to 14 days will be issued in mid-March, underscoring the union’s concerns over the draconian impact of sequestration on national security.

In all, CBP told NTEU, it will have to make $754 million in cuts from March 1 through the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year.

“These cuts will have devastating impacts on CBP’s duel missions of securing our borders and facilitating trade and travel,” said NTEU

President Colleen M. Kelley. In addition to potential furloughs, the cuts include reductions in travel, training and overtime; an agency-wide hiring freeze; a hiring freeze on frontline vacancies; adjustments to the composition of work units that threaten to sharply increase wait times at border entry points; a substantial loss of revenue from reduced travel and slowed commercial traffic; and more.

The NTEU leader repeated her call to head off sequestration. “With the grave consequences so clear to so many people, organizations and vital government programs,” she said, “it is hard to believe Congress will choose to pursue this wrong-headed course.”

Reducing the law enforcement personnel at the border will weaken our ability to safeguard our country against terrorists and criminals, keep illegal guns, drugs, currency and contraband from our communities, ensure the safety of our nation’s agriculture, inspect cargo, process travelers in an efficient and effective manner and facilitate legitimate trade.

CBP characterized administrative furloughs as a “last-resort” tool, and told NTEU it will make every effort to spread the furlough days out among the remaining pay periods of this fiscal year. Kelley previously has made clear NTEU’s intention throughout the government to bargain to the full extent of the law on the impact and implementation of furloughs.

The CBP information to NTEU largely mirrors and expands upon that provided a week ago to Congress by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, who warned the agency simply could not absorb cuts of this magnitude without seriously degrading its ability to perform its national security and key trade-related functions.

The impact on the economy was underscored earlier by a statement from the U.S. Travel Association, which noted that travel is a national economic driver, supporting some 14.4 million American jobs and generating $1.9 trillion in economic impact.

The result, the group said, could have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences, pointing out that poor travel experiences today impact decisions to travel far into the future, including among international travelers who spent $153 billion during visits to the United States in 2011.

The DHS Secretary said beginning April 1, CBP would have to reduce its work hours by the equivalent of over 5,000 Border Patrol agents and the equivalent of over 2,750 CBP Officers. “Furloughs of 14 days would mean these dedicated officers would lose more than two days of pay each month for the remainder of the year, on top of a pay freeze that has spanned 27 months,” the NTEU leader said.

“Sequestration is an unsound and irresponsible fiscal policy,” said President Kelley. “Congress must act to stop the sequester and head off these damaging reductions.”

NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.

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