Statement on U.S. Customs and Border Protection FY 2022 Funding



Chairman Roybal-Allard, Ranking Member Fleischmann, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony.  As President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), I have the honor of leading a union that represents over 29,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers, Agriculture Specialists and trade enforcement specialists stationed at 328 air, sea, and land ports of entry across the United States and 16 Preclearance stations throughout the world.  

CBP is the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for border security at the ports of entry--including anti-terrorism, immigration, anti-smuggling, trade compliance, and agriculture protection.  CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) also facilitates lawful trade and travel at U.S. ports of entry that is critical to our nation’s economy.

CBP Staffing at the Ports of Entry:  For years, NTEU has advocated for the hiring of thousands of new CBP Officers, 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 Resource Optimization Model for Trade Revenue (Trade ROM).   

Pursuant to these models, in FY 2021 House Appropriators sought $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. Senate Appropriators did not clear any funding bills but recommended $8 million in FY 2021 funding to hire 50 new non-uniformed trade positions to carry out CBP’s trade mission to strengthen trade enforcement actions.  However, in the end, the final FY 2021 funding bill did not include any 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. Based on CBP’s most recent staffing models, CBP needs to hire approximately 1,700 CBP Officers, 400 Agriculture Specialists and 200 non-uniformed Trade Specialists.

NTEU requests that the Committee include in its FY 2022 DHS appropriations bill 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.  Therefore, NTEU is asking the Committee to provide at minimum $160 million in direct appropriated funding for CBP “Operations and Support” in FY 2022 to fund the hiring of at least 800 CBP Officers, 240 CBP Agriculture Specialists, 200 CBP Agriculture Technicians, 20 Agriculture Canine Teams and 50 non-uniformed trade enforcement specialists and associated operational support personnel.

To further support this staffing request, NTEU joined a coalition of 28 port stakeholders, including Airports Council International-North America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association on a letter dated May 4, 2021 to the subcommittee urging funding for new officers so the agency will be prepared for an influx of passengers and cargo at the ports-of-entry once the current international travel restrictions are relaxed and eventually lifted. 

As the letter states, ensuring CBP staffing is an economic driver for the U.S. economy and an additional 800 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 crossing our borders has more than tripled in the past 25 years, 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.” 

Furthermore, acknowledging the ongoing CBP Officer staffing shortage at the ports, CBP again finds it necessary to solicit CBP Officers for temporary duty assignment (TDY) to San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Calexico land ports of entry beginning on May 16, 2021.  According to CBP, the TDY is necessary to support the workload and operational challenges facing the San Diego Field Office (e.g., wait times in excess of four hours).  OFO anticipates the TDY to run in three, 62-day phases starting May 16, 2021, and tentatively ending on July 18, 2021, with the possibility of additional phases.  These TDYs will be filled by CBP Officers currently assigned to air and seaport locations and will generally exclude northern and southern land border POEs. 

CBP Agriculture Specialist Staffing:  Currently, there is a shortage of approximately 430 Agriculture Specialists nationwide according to CBP’s own data-driven and vetted Workload Staffing Model.  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 appropriations request includes funding to hire the first wave of CBP agriculture inspection personnel authorized by the 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--$72 billion in 2019.  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.  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 2019 CBP Trade ROM.  NTEU strongly supports proposed appropriated funding in FY 2022 for 50 additional CBP non-uniformed Trade personnel.

User Fee Shortfalls:  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.  Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and Immigration and Agriculture Quality Inspection (AQI) user fees currently fund up to 8,000 CBP Officers and 2,400 Agriculture Specialists.  To address the user fee shortfall, we were pleased that Congress provided $840 million in FY 2021 emergency appropriations to maintain current staffing of CBP Officers.  Projected CBP trade and travel volume data shows an estimated user fee shortfall of up to $1.4 billion through the first quarter of FY 2022.  Congress also provided up to $635 million through the end of FY 2022 in supplemental funding to USDA to cover the user funding shortfall that funds CBP Agriculture Specialists staffing.

NTEU also requests that the Committee include in its FY 2022 DHS funding bill increased appropriated funding 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. 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this FY 2022 appropriations request for CBP Officer, Agriculture Specialist, Technicians, Canine teams, Trade Operations, and mission support new hires at the ports of entry to build on the CBP OFO staffing advances enacted in prior appropriations bill.  NTEU greatly appreciates your efforts to continue building on CBP OFO staffing advances made in recent years, and we urge you to provide FY 2022 funding to replace any user fee shortfall to maintain the current number of CBP employees and to hire needed additional CBP OFO employees to adequately staff the nation’s ports of entry as our economy rebounds from the pandemic.