A Review of the FY2023 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY
Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Katko, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record on the FY 2023 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- specifically Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) and personnel at the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Training Centers (FLETC). As National President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), I have the honor of leading a union that represents approximately 700 FLETC employees and over 29,000 CBP OFO employees, including CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists, trade enforcement personnel and support staff stationed at the 328 air, sea, and land ports of entry across the United States (U.S.) and 16 Preclearance stations at airports in Ireland, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates.
CBP OFO employees are responsible for border security at U.S. ports of entry, including anti-terrorism, immigration, anti-smuggling, trade compliance, and agriculture protection. CBP’s OFO pursues a dual mission of safeguarding American ports by protecting the public from dangerous people and materials, while enhancing the nation’s global and economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel. CBP’s trade mission safeguards America’s national security and leads to economic benefits by protecting revenue and market share for domestic industry, protecting jobs for American workers. CBP OFO employees at the ports of entry are the second largest source of revenue collection for the U.S. government, collecting over $40 billion annually.
CBP Staffing at the Ports of Entry: For years, NTEU has advocated for the hiring of thousands of new CBP Officers and hundreds of new Agriculture Specialists and non-uniformed trade operations personnel that are needed based on the agency’s own Workload Staffing Model (WSM), Agriculture Resource Allocation Model (AgRAM) and bi-annual Resource Optimization Model for Trade Revenue (Trade ROM).
Pursuant to these models, the final FY 2020 funding agreement provided $104 million to fund the hiring of 800 new OFO positions, including 610 CBP Officer and CBP Agriculture Specialist new hires. Unfortunately, Congress did not continue to fund to the models in FY 2021 or FY 2022. Even though House Appropriators approved $171 million for 1,150 new CBP OFO positions including $91 million for 850 CBP Officers, $10 million for 100 support personnel and $30 million for 200 agriculture specialists, neither the final FY 2021 nor FY 2022 funding agreements include any new funding to increase staffing for CBP OFO.
CBP’s staffing models are dynamic and reflect the impact of the pandemic on CBP OFO staffing needs. Despite the decrease in international trade and travel in the past year due to the pandemic, CBP’s most recent staffing models show a staffing gap of over 900 CBP Officers, 214 Agriculture Specialists and 200 non-uniformed Trade Specialists. However, there has been no additional funding provided for needed CBP new hires at the ports of entry since FY 2020. Staffing shortages have been exacerbated by the lifting of the travel ban in November 2020 ending more than 18 months of restrictions, allowing in non-essential tourists who had proof of their coronavirus vaccination and proper documentation to legally enter the U.S., and will be further exacerbated by the upcoming ending of the Title 42 public health order in May 2022.
While the final FY 2022 funding agreement does not include funding to increase CBP staffing at the ports of entry, NTEU is pleased Congress included $650 million to compensate for pandemic related reduction in customs and immigration user fee revenue that funds up to 8,000 CBP Officer positions. The bill also included $250 million to offset the loss of Agriculture Quality Inspection user fees that fund over 2,400 Agriculture Specialists positions. This $900 million in new FY 2022 funding was necessary to maintain the current level of CBP OFO staffing and avoid furloughs. The final agreement also added $23 million for onsite mental health clinicians and resiliency efforts. In addition to supporting suicide prevention programs, the $23 million increase will free up funding for other important resiliency programs, such as one that helps CBP employees with childcare expenses.
The President’s FY 2023 budget requests $15.3 billion for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure U.S. borders and ports of entry and effectively manage irregular migration along the Southwest border, including through $309 million in modern border security technology. It also requests additional funding to combat forced labor, including funding for 300 additional OFO positions including 50 CBPOs. NTEU greatly appreciates the President for including in his budget request a pay raise for federal employees for 2023 as well as new CBP funding to address the annualization of the 2023 pay raises, the associated FERS contribution increase and funding for certain port modernization projects.
However, the President’s FY 2023 budget request falls far short in addressing the ongoing CBP OFO staffing gap. To address that need, NTEU will be requesting that House and Senate Appropriators include funding for CBP OFO new hires up to levels required by the CBP’s dynamic workplace staffing models for CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists and Trade Specialists in the FY 2023 DHS appropriations bills. NTEU is asking Appropriators to provide appropriated funding for CBP “Operations and Support” in FY 2023 to fund the hiring of at least 600 CBP Officers, 200 CBP Agriculture Specialists, 200 CBP Agriculture Technicians, 20 Agriculture Canine Teams and at least 80 non-uniformed trade enforcement specialists and associated operational support personnel.
Also, in March, a CBP Officer authorization bill, S. 3850, the Safeguarding American Ports Act, stand-alone legislation that authorizes the hiring of 600 additional CBP Officers annually until the staffing gaps in CBP’s WSM is met was introduced in the Senate. NTEU strongly supports the introduction of an identical stand-alone CBP Officer staffing authorization bill in the House.
In addition to NTEU, a coalition of 23 port stakeholders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Port Authorities, Airports Council International-North America, and the U.S. Travel Association strongly support S. 3850 in a letter dated March 22, 2022 (see NTEU Exhibit A). As the letter states, funding an additional 600 CBP Officers would not only reduce wait times at ports of entry, but also provide new economic opportunities across the United States. “While the volume of commerce and passengers crossing our borders is on the rise once again, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand” the coalition wrote. “Long wait times at our ports-of-entry lead to travel delays and uncertainty, which can increase supply-chain costs and cause passengers to miss their connections. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, border delays result in losses to output, wages, jobs, and tax revenue due to decreases in spending by companies, suppliers, and consumers.”
Temporary Duty Assignments: Because of the ongoing CBP Officer staffing shortage at the ports, CBP again recently found it necessary to solicit 255 CBP Officers for a minimum of 60-days temporary duty assignment (TDY) to Southwest border land ports of entry, which began on April 20. According to CBP, the TDY is necessary to support the increased workload and operational challenges expected when the Title 42 public health order is lifted in May. CBP does project that this situation may require an additional solicitation or voluntarily extending those on this TDY. These TDYs are being filled by CBP Officers currently assigned to air and seaport locations, further exacerbating staffing issues at these ports.
To end the need for TDYs, it is up to Congress to address the ongoing critical port staffing deficit by authorizing and funding CBP OFO new hires in FY 2023 and subsequent years until the staffing gap identified in the workload staffing models are met. Without addressing the ongoing CBP Officer staffing shortages, allocating adequate staffing at all ports will remain a challenge.
CBP Agriculture Specialist Staffing: Even with the reduction of trade and travel volume due to the pandemic over the past two years, CBP’s own data-driven and vetted Workload Staffing Model shows a shortage of approximately 214 Agriculture Specialists nationwide. Last year, Congress approved P.L. 116-122, the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019. The new law authorizes CBP to hire 240 CBP Agriculture Specialists, 200 CBP Agriculture Technicians and 20 Agriculture Canine Teams per year until the staffing shortage that threatens the U.S. agriculture sector is met. NTEU’s FY 2023 appropriations request will include a request for funding to hire the first wave of CBP Agriculture Quarantine Inspection (AQI) personnel authorized by this newly enacted statute.
CBP Trade Operations Staffing: In addition to safeguarding our nation’s borders and ports, CBP is tasked with regulating and facilitating international trade. CBP employees at the ports of entry are critical for protecting our nation’s economic growth and security and are the second largest source of revenue collection for the U.S. government--$74 billion in 2020. For every dollar invested in CBP trade personnel, $87 is returned to the U.S. economy, either through lowering the costs of trade, ensuring a level playing field for domestic industry or protecting innovative intellectual property. However, since CBP was established in March 2003, however, there has been no increase in non-uniformed CBP trade enforcement and compliance personnel. Additionally, CBP trade operations staffing has fallen below the statutory floor set forth in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and stipulated in the FY 2021 CBP Trade ROM.
We commend the President for requesting funds for 163 Office of Trade new hires in his FY 2023 budget request to combat forced labor. To maintain CBP’s trade enforcement mission, NTEU supports Congress providing this number of CBP non-uniformed trade new hires in its FY 2023 appropriations bill.
User Fee Shortfalls: One of the most critical pandemic-related issues facing CBP OFO is the reduction of user fee funding that is threatening the nation’s economic recovery as international trade and travel struggles to return to normal. This funding shortfall is a result of the reduction in customs and immigration user fees collected due to the drastic drop in international commercial travel, and to a lesser extent, trade volume since March 2020.
As you know, CBP collects fees under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) and immigration inspection user fees to recover certain costs incurred for processing air and sea passengers and various private and commercial land, sea, air, and rail carriers and shipments. The source of these user fees are commercial vessels, commercial vehicles, rail cars, private aircraft, private vessels, air passengers, sea passengers, cruise vessel passengers, dutiable mail, customs brokers, and barge/bulk carriers. International air travel contributes 94 percent of COBRA and immigration user fees. COBRA and immigration user fees together fund 40 percent of CBP’s OFO budget, including 8,000 CBPO positions. That is roughly one third of the entire CBP workforce at the ports of entry. Agriculture Quality Inspection (AQI) user fees currently fund up to 2,400 Agriculture Specialists, currently 100 percent of the CBP Agriculture Specialists workforce.
Due to the pandemic’s continued disruption of fee-generating international travel and commerce, user fee collections have fallen precipitously which has necessitated the need for emergency funding to prevent furloughing CBP OFO personnel at a time when international trade and travel volume is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. To address the user fee shortfall, we were pleased that Congress provided $840 million in FY 2021 and $650 million in FY 2022 appropriations to maintain current staffing of CBP Officers. Congress also provided up to $635 million in FY 2022 and $250 million in USDA funding to cover the user funding shortfall that funds CBP Agriculture Specialists staffing.
U.S. businesses rely on the safe and efficient movement of goods and people across our borders and are all working to safely resume international travel and travel. Keeping current CBP Officer staffing levels will be necessary to successfully transition into a more robust, safe, and delay-free travel environment and improve cargo movement. Losing the hiring and staffing advances that CBP finally started to gain after years of effort and much appreciated funding support by Congress will negatively impact cross-border travel, passenger processing and trade facilitation in future years as the economy returns to normal.
The critical issues that American businesses are facing to recover from this pandemic require quick, decisive action so that our government can best facilitate the flow of travel and trade as the economy recovers. Without Congress again providing supplemental funding or reprogramming existing funds to support these CBP Officers between now and the end of FY 2022, we are gravely concerned that this loss of user fee funding will result in furloughs at a time when this workforce is most needed to facilitate the flow of legitimate travel and trade as the economy recovers.
NTEU requests that the Committee continue to seek funding as needed to replace user fee shortfalls for CBP OFO salaries and expenses and to mitigate dependence on user fees to fund salaries and expenses of CBP OFO personnel through the end of FY 2023. This CBP OFO funding request will help to ensure that current CBP Officer staffing levels are maintained as trade and traffic volumes increase. CBP employees at the ports of entry already face many challenges in the course of their work and concerns about their health and safety or of being furloughed as the country reopens for business should not be among them.
NTEU also strongly opposes any diversion of COBRA user fees. Any increases to the user fee account should be properly used for much-needed CBP staffing and not diverted to unrelated projects. In 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act indexed COBRA user fees to inflation. However, the Act diverted this increase in the user fee from CBP to pay for unrelated infrastructure projects. Indexing the COBRA user fee to inflation is projected to raise $1.4 billion over ten years—a potential $140 million per year funding stream to help pay for the hiring of additional CBP Officers to perform CBP’s border security, law enforcement and trade and travel facilitation missions. Diverting these funds has resulted in CBP not receiving this user fee funding to hire over 900 new CBP Officers per year since the FAST Act went into effect. These new hires would have significantly alleviated the current CBP Officer staffing shortage.
CBP Officer Overtime: Prior to the pandemic, ongoing staffing shortages resulted in CBP Officers being required to work excessive overtime hours to maintain basic port staffing. CBP Officer overtime pay is entirely funded through user fees and is statutorily capped at $45,000 per year. All CBP Officers are aware that overtime assignments are an aspect of their jobs. However, extended periods of overtime hours can severely disrupt an officer’s family life, morale and ultimately their job performance protecting our nation. Prior to the pandemic, CBP Officers were required to regularly work overtime hours and many individual Officers have hit the overtime cap very early in the fiscal year. This leaves no overtime funding available for peak season travel, resulting in critical staffing shortages in the third and fourth quarter that coincides with holiday travel at the ports.
To address this issue prior to the pandemic, CBP granted overtime cap exemptions to over one-half of the workforce to allow managers to assign overtime to Officers that have already reached the statutory overtime cap, but cap waivers only force CBP Officers already working long daily shifts to continue working these shifts for more days. As the trade and travel volume recovers, CBP Officers may once again be required to come in hours before their regular shifts, to stay an indeterminate number of hours after their shifts (on the same day) and be compelled to come in for more overtime hours on their regular days off. Involuntary overtime resulting in 12 to 16-hour shifts, day after day, for months on end significantly disrupts CBP Officers’ family life and erodes morale. As NTEU has repeatedly stated, extensive overtime is not a long-term solution for staffing shortages at the ports and we need Congress’ support to end this practice by funding OFO new hires as international trade and travel volume continues to rally.
Reimbursable Service Program: In order to find alternative sources of funding to address serious staffing shortages, CBP received authorization for and has entered into Reimbursable Service Agreements (RSAs) with the private sector, as well as with state and local governmental entities. These stakeholders, who are already paying COBRA and immigration user fees for CBP OFO employee positions and overtime, reimburse CBP for additional inspection services, including overtime pay and the hiring of new CBP Officer and Agriculture Specialist personnel that in the past have been paid for entirely by user fees or appropriated funding. Since the program began in 2013 with 5 pilot agreements, CBP has entered into agreements with over 236 stakeholders providing more than 793,000 additional processing hours for incoming commercial and cargo traffic (see GAO-20-255R and GAO-21-234R).
NTEU believes that the RSA program is a band-aid approach and cannot replace the need for Congress to either appropriate new funding or authorize an increase in customs and immigration user fees to adequately address CBP staffing needs at the ports. RSAs simply cannot replace the need for an increase in CBP appropriated or user fee funding—and they make CBP a “pay to play” agency. NTEU also remains concerned with CBP’s new Preclearance expansion program that also relies heavily on “pay to play.” Further, NTEU believes that the use of RSAs to fund CBP staffing shortages raises significant equity issues between larger and/or wealthier ports and smaller ports.
Illegal Narcotics Interdiction: CBP OFO is the premier DHS component tasked with stemming the nation’s opioid epidemic — a crisis that continues to get worse. On a typical day, the agency makes over 900 arrests and seizes more than 9,000 pounds of illegal drugs.
According to a May 2018 report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Minority titled Combatting the Opioid Epidemic: Intercepting Illicit Opioids at Ports of Entry, “between 2013 and 2017, approximately 25,405 pounds, or 88% of all opioids seized by CBP, were seized at ports of entry.” The amount of fentanyl seized at the ports of entry increased by 159% from 459 pounds in 2016 to 1,189 pounds in 2017, increased by 54 percent from 2,579 pounds in FY 2019 to 3,967 pounds in FY 2020, and increased 156 percent from 3,982 pounds in FY 2020 to 10,204 pounds in FY 2021. To continue this level of opioid seizures, NTEU supports funding for additional CBP Canine teams on the frontline, as well as CBP Officer new hires in the FY 2023 appropriations bill.
Ongoing Morale Issues: Adequate staffing at CBP ports of entry is critical to our nation’s economic vitality. In order to attract talented applicants, however, federal agencies must also recognize the importance of employee engagement and fair treatment in their workplace. Unfortunately, low morale has been a consistent challenge at CBP that is reflected in CBP’s ranking in the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. In 2020, PPS ranked CBP as 328th out of 411 component agencies surveyed.
The Best Places to Work results raise serious questions about the CBP’s ability to recruit and retain the top-notch personnel necessary to accomplish the critical missions that keep our country safe. If the agency’s goal is to build a workforce that feels both valued and respected, these results show that the agency needs to make major changes in its treatment of employees.
Of particular concern to NTEU is the increase in suicides as the reported cause death of Federal employees. Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data that shows that Federal employee suicides were at their highest level in at least 15 years, with suicides accounting for 28% of the 124 Federal employee job-related deaths in 2018. Since 2011, the number of self-inflicted intentional fatalities among Federal workers has more than doubled to 35, although the Federal workforce has remained approximately the same size.
Most suicides continue to involve Federal employees in work related to law enforcement, such as CBP. In 2016, 15 of the 16 reported suicides were by Federal workers employed at a national security related agency. At CBP, 134 employees died by suicide between 2007 and 2020, according to the agency. In 2021, there were 11 suicide deaths and 6 suicide deaths since the start of 2022. NTEU applauds CBP for seeking additional funding for their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). In response to many conversations and concerns regarding the adequacy of CBP’s programs to assist employees who are experiencing mental health issues. At NTEU’s insistence, CBP also agreed to bargain over the establishment of a union/management Suicide Prevention and Resiliency workgroup. The purpose of the workgroup is to collaborate on new and innovative ways to promote, improve current resiliency, and suicide prevention programs within CBP.
NTEU also applauds Congress for including in FY 2022 budget an increase of $23 million to fund on-site clinicians to support CBP employee resiliency and suicide prevention programs and urges Congress to provide at least the same level of funding for FY 2023.
NTEU also strongly supports H.R. 490, the DHS Morale, Recognition, Learning and Engagement Act or the DHS MORALE Act. The MORALE Act was approved by the House on April 20, 2021 and is awaiting action by the Senate. The bill directs the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) to analyze government-wide Federal workforce satisfaction surveys to inform efforts to improve morale, maintain a catalogue of available employee development opportunities and authorize the designation of a Chief Learning and Engagement Officer to assist the CHCO on employee development.
H.R. 490 also authorizes the establishment of an Employee Engagement Steering Committee comprised of representatives from across the Department, as well as individuals from employee labor organizations that represent DHS employees. Lastly, the bill authorizes the Secretary to establish an annual employee awards program to recognize non-supervisory DHS employees who have made a significant contribution to the Department. In our collective bargaining agreement with CBP, NTEU negotiated an extremely popular employee joint awards program. The Agency retains the discretion to determine how much of its budget will be allocated for awards, but 85 percent of the total awards budgeted are recommended by a joint union/management awards committee to be distributed proportionately among bargaining unit employees. NTEU recommends that DHS look at the negotiated CBP joint awards program as a model for an agency-wide program.
While a major factor contributing to low morale at CBP is insufficient staffing and resources at the ports of entry, the provisions in the DHS MORALE Act will help to address non-staffing issues that affect employee morale by improving frontline employee engagement and establishing a statutory annual employee award program. NTEU commends the House for approving the DHS MORALE Act and will continue to urge the Senate to expeditiously do the same.
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Training Centers (FLETC): NTEU also represents the instructors and support staff at FLETC that provide career-long training to federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agency professionals. The program provides training in areas common to all law enforcement officers, such as firearms, driving, tactics, investigations, and legal training. Under a collaborative training model, federal partner organizations (POs) also deliver training unique to their missions as part of this program. FLETC provides training to more than 100 POs, 12 of which within DHS, and an annual average throughput exceeding 18,000 basic students.
The President’s FY 2023 budget provides 50 percent of the instructor requirements for basic and advanced training, as well as the tuition for basic training. FLETC receives reimbursable resources in to fund the remaining 50 percent of instructor requirements and other training costs incurred by FLETC. The FY 2023 request seeks funding for 7 additional new hires, including four new training support staff. According to our conversations with our FLETC members, this funding does not meet current needs. For example, in the Driver and Management Division alone, FLETC is 15 instructors short of the 45 instructors needed.
Appropriated funding levels for FLETC has not changed in years and it shows. FLETC’s lack of funding is negatively impacting the mission and the quality of training for federal law enforcement officers. Over the years, the student to teacher ratio has diminished and students are being shortchanged. FLETC has too few instructors to teach students and instructors’ skills are not being regularly updated by FLETC.
Our members are concerned that instructors staffing levels are not a priority. NTEU has been told by FLETC that the mission is first, the POs are second, the students third, and lastly the instructors. If the permanent instructor cadre is not being fully staffed, the mission suffers. The instructors are the product that FLETC delivers. NTEU is seeking to work collaboratively with FLETC management and with Congress to provide additional funding to address the instructor staffing shortage issue.
Pandemic Response: As with every workplace, the COVID-19 pandemic remains one of the most significant ongoing challenges facing CBP employees. The pursuit of the safest possible working environment for CBP employees at all ports of entry, trade, and operations support and FLETC training facilities have been NTEU’s paramount concern during the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the pandemic, many international air, sea, and land ports of entry remained open and staffed by CBP OFO employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. FLETC facilities have experienced several lockdowns and closures due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Despite best efforts to protect essential frontline CBP employees, over 23,000 CBP employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and tragically 34 CBP OFO employees have died as a result of the virus. As leaders, it is important that we continue to do everything we can to mitigate the risks CBP and FLETC employees face, and we need to encourage them to do so on an individual basis, for their own safety as well as the safety of their coworkers and families.
NTEU strongly supports hazard pay for front-line federal employees. In addition to pushing for hazard pay in earlier COVID relief bills, NTEU supports the Hazardous Duty Pay for Frontline Federal Workers Act (H.R. 2744), introduced by Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ), which would temporarily provide hazard pay for employees who are exposed to an individual who has (or has been exposed to) COVID-19. We have also been working with Members of Congress to craft legislation to provide hazard pay specifically for DHS employees. It is hoped that this bill, which should be retroactive, will be introduced shortly.
Along with ensuring protection from the pandemic, the most important resource that Congress needs to provide for the successful reopening of the economic driver that is our international ports of entry is more funding to address ongoing CBP OFO port staffing shortages.
NTEU Recommendations: To address CBP’s workforce challenges and to improve security, trade, and travel at our nation’s ports of entry, Congress must first address CBP OFO ongoing staffing shortages. It is clearly in the nation’s economic and security interest for Congress to authorize and fund an increase in the number of CBP Officers, CBP Agriculture Specialists, and other CBP employees at the air, sea, and land ports of entry.
In order to achieve the long-term goal of securing the proper staffing of CBP staffing and end disruptive TDYs and excessive involuntary overtime shifts at all ports of entry, NTEU recommends that Congress take the following actions:
• Enact a stand-alone bill to authorize funding for CBP Officer new hires to the level identified in the workload staffing model,
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• Support funding for 600 CBP Officers new hires in FY 2023 DHS Appropriations,
• Support FY 2023 funding for new CBP agriculture inspection personnel, as authorized by P.L. 116-122,
• Support funding for needed Trade Operations Specialists and other OFO support staff,
• Support at least $23 million for onsite mental health clinicians and resiliency efforts,
• Support the Hazardous Duty Pay for Frontline Federal Workers Act (H.R. 2744), and any new legislation that provides hazard pay for DHS employees exposed to the public at work during the COVID-19 pandemic,
• Support increased funding for FLETC instructor new hires; and
• Oppose any legislation to divert customs user fees to other uses, projects, or programs that are collected to fund a portion of salaries, benefits, and overtime for CBP Officers.
The CBP and FLETC employees that NTEU represents work hard and care deeply about their jobs and their country. These men and women are deserving of more staffing and resources to perform their jobs better and more efficiently. Authorizing funding for CBP OFO and FLETC instructor new hires will start to relieve the stress of excessive overtime and temporary reassignments that are a strain on these employees and their families.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record.
NTEU Exhibit A
March 21, 2022
Dear Senators Peters and Cornyn:
As stakeholders interested in the facilitation activities of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at air, sea, and land ports-of-entry around the globe, we thank you for introducing S. 3850, the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act, which would increase the authorized number of CBP officers by 600 annually to help the agency meet its current and future staffing needs. The bill also would provide better information about CBP’s infrastructure needs at its ports-of-entry, as well as much needed transparency and accountability regarding the agency’s increasing reliance on reimbursable services agreements and temporary duty assignments to cover its system-wide staffing shortfalls.
We share your commitment to ensuring that America’s borders remain safe, secure, and efficient for all users, while enhancing our global competitiveness through the facilitation of legitimate travel and trade. CBP’s most recent workload staffing model, which used data from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, still showed a shortage of nearly 1,000 CBP officers across the system. Since the model was most recently run, the pandemic has subsided, and international trade and travel volumes are expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in many locations. Current staffing levels already fail to address the growing demand of travel and trade at our ports-of-entry today, and we anticipate the workload staffing model will indicate drastically higher CBP staffing shortages at the ports-of-entry in subsequent runs. Providing additional CBP officers at this time of growing volumes of international passengers and cargo in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will both reduce lengthy wait times and facilitate new economic opportunities in communities throughout the United States.
Increasing CBP officer staffing is an economic driver for the U.S. economy. According to the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), “every day 1.1 million people and $5.9 billion in goods legally enter and exit through the ports of entry.” CBP estimates that the annual hiring of an additional 600 CBP officers at the ports-of-entry could increase yearly economic activity by over $1 billion and result in the addition of over 17,000 new jobs.
While the volume of commerce and passengers crossing our borders is on the rise once again, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand. Long wait times at our ports-of-entry lead to delays and uncertainty, which can increase supply-chain costs and cause travelers to miss their connections. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, border delays result in losses to output, wages, jobs, and tax revenue due to decreases in spending by companies, suppliers, and consumers. The travel industry estimates long CBP wait times discourage international visitors, who spend an average of $4,200 per visit, from traveling to the United States. JEC research also finds border delays cost the U.S. economy upwards of $5 billion each year.
Thank you for your leadership on these important matters. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance to your efforts.
Airports Council International – North America American
Association of Port Authorities
National Treasury Employees Union
American Association of Airport Executives
American Society of Travel Advisors
Border Trade Alliance
Cargo Airline Association
City of San Luis, AZ
Douglas International Port Authority
Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Global Business Travel Association
Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority
Greater Yuma Port Authority
Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
National Association of Waterfront Employers
National Maritime Safety Association
San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
San Diego – Tijuana Smart Border Coalition
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Travel Association
West Gulf Maritime Association