Statement on the FY 2025 CBP Budget


House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

Chairman Amodei, Ranking Member Cuellar and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony. As National 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) Office of Field Operations (OFO) CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists and trade enforcement specialists stationed at 328 air, sea, and land ports of entry across the United States (U.S.) and 16 Preclearance stations throughout the world. NTEU requests that the Committee provide at least $239 million in additional direct appropriated funding for CBP Operations and Support for CBP to hire at least 1000 CBP Officers in FY 2025, and that you continue to provide this additional funding each year until the needed staffing levels indicated in the Workload Staffing Model are met. We also request funding to hire 240 additional CBP Agriculture Specialists, 200 CBP Agriculture Technicians, 20 Agriculture Canine Teams as authorized by P.L. 116-122 and 100 non-uniformed trade enforcement specialists and associated operational support personnel. In addition, NTEU requests funding to continue implementing CBP onsite mental health clinicians, employee resiliency and suicide prevention programs.

For years, NTEU has worked to fund and hire thousands of needed CBP Officers at the ports of entry. CBP officials recently testified before Congress that the most recent CBP Officer Workload Staffing Model shows an immediate need to fund and hire at least 4,000 new CBP Officers.

To address emergency funding for the border among other issues, the President sent a border supplemental funding package to Congress in October 2023 that would fund 1,000 CBP Officers at the nation’s ports of entry. Unfortunately, Congress did not adopt the President’s border emergency supplemental. Last month, the President submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget request that reiterates the earlier October 2023 border supplemental request of $13.6 billion for immediate funding to secure the border and to stop illicit fentanyl and other contraband from entering the U.S. This amount includes $239 million to hire 1,000 additional CBP Officers to stop illicit fentanyl and other contraband from entering the U.S., however, there is no guarantee that Congress will approve this supplemental funding before FY 2025 begins on October 1, 2024. Therefore, NTEU are asking appropriators to fund the hiring of 1,000 new CBP Officers in FY 2025.

CBP OFO personnel are responsible for border security at the ports of entry--including anti-terrorism, immigration, anti-smuggling, trade compliance, and agriculture protection. CBP OFO employees also facilitate lawful trade and travel at U.S. ports of entry that is critical to our nation’s economy.

CBP at the ports of entry is the second largest revenue-collecting source in the federal government. In FY 2022 CBP OFO and Office of Trade collected approximately $111.8 billion in duties, taxes, and other fees. CBP OFO also enforces nearly 500 U.S. laws and regulations and according to the CBP Office of Trade Economics Benefits Model for every dollar invested in trade facilitation and enforcement, the U.S. gains nearly $96 in economic benefits in terms of increased corporate profits, job growth, and government efficiencies.

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, Agriculture Resource Allocation Model (AgRAM) and Resource Optimization Model for Trade Revenue (Trade ROM).

These staffing models are dynamic and reflect the impact of the pandemic on CBP OFO staffing needs.

While NTEU appreciates the funding for 150 CBP Officer new hires for FY 2024 Congress provided in the final budget deal, based on CBP’s most recent work load staffing models, CBP needs to hire at least 4,000 CBP Officers, 250 Agriculture Specialists and 100 non-uniformed Trade Specialists to address current staffing needs at the ports of entry.

Acknowledging the economic impact of the ongoing CBP Officer staffing shortage at the ports, NTEU works with a coalition of 50 port stakeholders, including Airports Council International-North America, American Association of Port Authorities, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association in support on increased funding for CBP OFO new hires to address increases in trade and travel volume at the ports-of-entry. In a letter in support of this effort last year, the coalition wrote that “[w]hile the volume of commerce crossing our borders has more than tripled in the past 25 years, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand. 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.”

As important as CBP OFO’s role as an economic driver is, CBP OFO personnel are also on the frontline of illegal narcotics interdiction since over 90 percent of illicit drugs seized, including fentanyl, enter through the ports of entry. The drugs are concealed in privately owned vehicles, commercial vehicles, and even pedestrians. Per CBP data, in FY 2023, out of the 549,000 pounds of drug seized, 240,000 pounds were seized at the southwest land border; out of 27,000 pounds of Fentanyl seized, 26,700 pounds were seized at the southwest border land border. And, to date, at ports of entry alone, CBP Officers seized more than 8,000 pounds of fentanyl in FY 2024. In FY 2023, CBP at the ports of entry seized nearly 24,200 pounds of fentanyl, nearly 1,400 pounds of heroin, 124,000 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 69,000 pounds of cocaine and CBP is on track to seize as much, if not more, this year. These seizures permanently removed these drugs from the illicit supply chain, kept them out of our communities, and denied drug trafficking organizations profits and critical operating capital.

Due to the ongoing CBP Officer staffing shortage at the ports, CBP again has found it necessary to solicit CBP Officers for temporary duty assignment (TDY) to Southwest Border (SWB) land ports of entry beginning in April 2022—over two years now. This TDY has been renewed every 60 days and now has been going on for over a year. Wave 13 commenced on April 25, 2024, with 257 CBP Officers being deployed to ports of entry within the San Diego (134), Tucson (10), El Paso (22) and Laredo (91) Field Offices. These TDYs are filled by CBP Officers currently assigned to other air, sea, and land port locations, exacerbating staffing shortages at those ports.

To help achieve funding to support CBP OFO’s dynamic economic expansion and drug interdiction missions, NTEU strongly supports S. 1523, the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act, a bipartisan authorization bill that would increase the authorized number of CBP law enforcement officers by 600 annually to help the agency meet its current and future staffing needs as documented by CBP’s CBP Officer workload staffing model.

NTEU strongly believes that CBP should continue to hire CBP law enforcement officers to do CBP Officer work at the ports of entry and strongly oppose H.R. 5990 and S. 2278, the Border Enforcement, Security, and Trade (BEST) Facilitation Act of 2023 that would establish two new non-law enforcement Image Technicians positions at CBP and 12 regional command centers at air, sea, rail, and land ports in which image technicians will review non-intrusive inspection (NII) images. While NTEU appreciates the desire to free up CBP Officers’ time given we are severely understaffed, putting this work in the hands of non-law enforcement personnel raises security and other concerns that we do not feel are addressed in this legislation as written.

Staffing shortages that result in excessive overtime requirements and an increasing need for TDYs are additional stressors in the workplace that are impacting the mental health of CBP law enforcement officers. NTEU greatly appreciates Congress’ continued funding for CBP onsite mental health clinicians, employee resiliency and suicide prevention programs and strongly supports keeping this level of funding in FY 2025. According to the agency, 156 CBP employees died by suicide between 2007 and 2022. CBP saw the highest number of suicides at 15 in 2022. In 2023, CBP lost 8 employees and as of April 2024, CBP has lost 3 employees to suicide.

NTEU seeks the Committee’s support for the union to work collaboratively with CBP in effectively utilizing the designated appropriations to address the unique and prevalent behavioral health challenges within the Agency with a goal toward helping, and retaining employees with behavioral health challenges, that removes obstacles that prevent employees from seeking treatment; and provides meaningful support to employees struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, family/marriage relationship problems, PTSD, substance abuse and sleep deprivation. NTEU supports the bipartisan DHS Suicide Prevention and Resiliency for Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 2577 and S. 1137) that would establish a Law Enforcement Mental Health and Resiliency Program within DHS to provide oversight, guidance, and resources to DHS components that carry out law enforcement missions. These bills have been approved by the Committees with jurisdiction and are ready for floor action in both the House and Senate.

In addition to supporting suicide prevention and mental health resiliency programs, the increase in program funding will free up funds for other important employee support programs, such as one that helps CBP employees with childcare expenses.

CBP Agriculture Specialist Staffing: Currently, there is a continuing shortage of Agriculture Specialists nationwide according to CBP’s own data driven and vetted AgRAM. In 2020, 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 requests appropriations to fund the CBP agriculture quality inspection new hires authorized by P.L. 116-122.

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. 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, 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. NTEU strongly supports appropriated funding in FY 2025 for at least 100 additional CBP non-uniformed, OFO and Office of Trade personnel.

Therefore, NTEU is asking the Committee to provide at least $239 million in additional direct appropriated funding for CBP Operations and Support in FY 2025 to fund the hiring of at least 1,000 CBP Officers, as well as funding to hire 240 additional CBP Agriculture Specialists, 200 CBP Agriculture Technicians, 20 Agriculture Canine Teams as authorized by P.L. 116-122 and 100 non-uniformed trade enforcement specialists and associated operational support personnel.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this FY 2025 appropriations request for CBP Officer, Agriculture Specialist, Technicians, Canine teams, Trade Operations, and mission support new hires at the ports of entry. NTEU also greatly appreciates and supports the Committee’s funding of CBP suicide prevention and other resiliency programs since FY 2022 and urges continuing this funding in the FY 2025 appropriations bill.