Department of Homeland Security Fiscal 2018 Budget Request


Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement on behalf of the 25,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers, Agriculture Specialists and trade enforcement personnel stationed at 328 land, sea and air ports of entry (POE) across the United States (U.S.) and 16 Preclearance stations currently in Ireland, the Caribbean, Canada and United Arab Emirates airports represented by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

I am submitting NTEU’s comments on the Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget submission for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a follow-up to my testimony before the Committee on March 22, 2017 at the hearing entitled “Frontline Perspective:  The Need for More Resources at CBP and ICE.”

As of April 29, 2017, CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) has 22,794 CBP Officers onboard at the ports of entry—1,420 short of its FY 2017 target of 24,214. The FY 2018 budget request supports the filling of the current vacancies to meet the FY 2017 target of 24,214, but significantly changes how these new positions would be funded.  However, the Administration’s FY 2018 budget provides no new funding to address the current CBP Officer staffing shortage of at least 2,107 additional CBP Officers as stipulated by CBP’s own FY 2017 Workload Staff Model (WSM) and to fund an additional 631 CBP Agriculture Specialists as stipulated by CBP’s own FY 2107 Agriculture Resource Allocation Model (AgRAM).

For these reasons, NTEU is requesting $350 million in additional CBP OFO Operations and Support in the DHS FY 2018 appropriations bill.  NTEU requests $300 million to ensure funding for CBP OFO to meet its FY 2017 CBP Officer frontline staffing target of 24,214 and to begin funding the hiring of 2,107 additional CBP Officers needed to achieve the staffing target of 26,300 CBP Officers as stipulated in CBP’s own WSM.   CBP’s AgRAM shows a need to fund an additional 631 CBP Agriculture Specialists over the 2,418 currently authorized.  NTEU is requesting $50 million to begin funding the hiring of these additional 631 CBP Agriculture Specialists over the 2,418 currently onboard.  

Realignment of User Fees:  The Administration’s budget proposes significant realignment of user fees collected by CBP.  Currently, 33 percent of CBP Officer salaries and benefits are funded with a combination of user fees, reimbursable service agreements, and trust funds.  The FY 2018 budget proposes to reduce OFO appropriated funding by realigning and redirecting user fees, including redirecting the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) fee that will require a statutory change.  The FY 2018 budget proposal would redirect approximately $157 million in ESTA fees from Brand USA to CBP.  Rather than redirecting the ESTA fees to fund the additional 2,107 CBP Officer new hires needed to fully staff CBP Officer positions in FY 2018 and beyond, as stipulated by CBP’s WSM, the budget would in fact reduce CBP’s appropriated funding by $157 million.  Therefore, while the budget proposes to increase the number of CBP Officer positions funded by ESTA user fees by 1,099, it decreases appropriated funding by $157 million, and reduces the number of CBP Officer positions funded by appropriations by 1,099 positions. 

The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (P.L. 111–145) created the Corporation for Travel Promotion (also known as Brand USA).   Under the Trade Promotion Act, successful applicants for electronic travel authorization are charged an additional $10 fee to fund Brand USA.  Notably, Congress will need to enact legislation to eliminate Brand USA and redirect all ESTA fees to CBP. 

If the legislation to eliminate Brand USA is not enacted, but the appropriations level for CBP Officers in the Administration’s FY 2018 budget is approved, CBP will be short $157 million and will need to reduce the CBP Officer work force by 1,099 positions.  In other words, there will only be funding in the FY 2018 appropriation to fund 23,115 CBP Officers—1,099 positions short of the current staffing target. This is why NTEU is requesting $157 million of the total $300 million increase for CBP Officer funding to ensure that the number of CBP Officers remains at 24,412.

If the legislation to eliminate Brand USA is enacted, NTEU urges Congress to add the ESTA-fee funded positions to the current CBP Officer target of 24,214 positions.  By adding these 1,100 ESTA-fee funded positions, CBP OFO would then have funding for 25,314 CBP Officers.  The remaining $143 million appropriation requested by NTEU would allow OFO to finally fund the CBP Officer staffing level stipulated in the FY 17 WSM.

CBP Technicians:  In the Administration’s FY 2018 budget submission, CBP proposes a decrease of $9.9 million in OFO pay requirements to backfill CBP Officer positions with 198 CBP Technicians.  NTEU supports the hiring of additional CBP Technicians as long as CBP does not seek to replace the number of current onboard CBP Officer with CBP Technicians.  CBP Technicians cannot simply “backfill” for CBP Officer, because they are not qualified as CBP Officers.  With an ongoing shortage of CBP Officers, hiring new CBP Officers should be CBP’s priority.  NTEU supports hiring additional CBP Technicians to give administrative support to CBP Officers, but strongly objects to CBP replacing frontline CBP Officer positions made vacant through attrition with CBP Technicians.

OFO Canine Enforcement Program (CEP):  The budget proposes a decrease of $3.2 million to the OFO CEP.  Of the 496 specialized canine teams currently deployed, 188 canine teams would be retired from locations other than the Southwest border ports of entry.  CBP Canine handlers for the 188 retired canine teams would be redirected to non-canine front line duties. The CBP Canine Program is critical to CBP’s mission. The working CBP canine teams are one of the best tools available to detect and apprehend persons attempting to enter the U.S. to carry out acts of terrorism. These canine teams are instrumental in detection and seizure of controlled substances and other contraband, which are often used to finance terrorist and/or criminal drug trafficking organizations.  NTEU does not support retiring nearly one third of the currently onboard OFO specialized canine teams.

Agriculture Specialist Staffing:  NTEU is requesting $50 million to begin hiring the 631 additional CBP Agriculture Specialists to meet the staffing target stipulated in CBP’s FY 2017 AgRAM.  Also, NTEU worked successfully with Congress to obtain report language in the House version of the FY 2016 funding bill that states: “With CBP’s recent release of its risk-based Agriculture Resource Allocation Model (AgRAM), the Committee is concerned about how CBP plans to fulfill its agriculture quarantine inspection (AQI) mission with current staffing levels. CBP is directed to report back to the Committee within 90 days of enactment a plan to address these staffing needs to meet its AQI mission to protect U.S. food, agriculture, and natural resources.”   Despite this Committee’s report request, it is our understanding that CBP has not yet delivered a plan to fund and hire 631 Agriculture Specialists as stipulated in their FY 2017 AgRAM.

CBP Trade Operations Staffing:  CBP has a dual mission of safeguarding our nation’s borders and ports as well as regulating and facilitating international trade.  CBP’s ports of entry are the second largest source of revenue collection for the U.S. government.  In 2016, CBP processed more than $2.2 trillion in imports and collected more than $44 billion in duties, taxes, and other fees.  Since CBP was established in March 2003, however, there has been no increase in non-uniformed CBP trade enforcement and compliance personnel even though inbound trade volume grew by more than 24 percent between FY 2010 and FY 2014.  Additionally, CBP trade operations staffing has fallen below the statutory floor set forth in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.  NTEU strongly supports the funding of 140 additional positions at the CBP Office of Trade to support implementation of Trade Enhancement and Facilitation Act (P.L. 114-125) requirements.

As I stated at the Committee’s March 22, 2017 hearing on the need for more resources at CBP, delays at the U.S. ports of entry result in real losses to the U.S. economy. Understaffed ports lead to long delays in travel and cargo lanes, hurting businesses and consumers, and also create a significant hardship for frontline employees.  For every 33 additional CBP Officers hired, the U.S. can potentially gain over 1,000 private sector jobs. If Congress fully staffed the ports with the needed 3,500 additional CBP Officers in FY 2018, 106,000 private sector jobs could be created.   For every 1,000 CBP Officers added, the U.S. can increase its gross domestic product by $2 billion.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement to the Committee on behalf of the men and women represented by NTEU at the nation’s ports of entry.