Washington D.C. – Fully staffing the nation’s 328 ports of entry will improve security, grow the economy and make the workplace safer for the Customs and Border Protection personnel stationed at the ports, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon told Congress Thursday.
The agency has 1,600 CBP Officer vacancies that are funded but unfilled and requires funding for an additional 1,900 to meet their own workload staffing model, Reardon told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability.
“There is no greater roadblock to border security than the lack of sufficient staff at the ports and the current CBP Officer shortage is staggering,” Reardon said.
Reardon commended lawmakers for recently approving new funding to hire 600 more CBP Officers, but the agency is still short 721 Agriculture Specialists. CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists and Trade Enforcement Specialists are responsible for facilitating legitimate trade and travel through the ports, as well as interdicting illegal drugs, criminals, counterfeit goods, and dangerous food or plant products. For example, of all of the opioids seized by CBP, 88 percent were seized at the ports of entry.
“Understaffed ports lead to long delays in travel and cargo lanes and also create a significant hardship for frontline employees,” Reardon said. “Both involuntary overtime and involuntary work assignments far from home disrupt CBP Officers’ family life and destroy morale.”
Congress also needs to focus more resources on recruiting and retention, including pay flexibilities and incentives for officers to fill vacancies at hard-to-fill ports.
Reardon said CBP funding and staffing at the ports is a crucial component of border security and economic growth.
“That is why we have fought for many, many years for additional funding for CBP, for more staffing at the ports, to fix the hiring process so employees can be brought on more quickly and for better equipment, pay and benefits for all CBP employees,” he said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments, including about 27,000 CBP Office of Field Operations employees.