Treasury employees’ union says more CBP officers needed

The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget requires an additional $160 million to hire additional Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and other specialists to sufficiently staff the nation’s 328 ports of entry, according to National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

The union told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee in a written statement on Thursday that the additional funds will allow CBP to hire an additional 1,100 port-level staff. Trump’s current budget proposal requests no additional funds toward CBP officer hiring for the next fiscal year.

The additional funding for port-level agency staff for fiscal year 2021 should include “at least 600 CBP officers, 240 CBP agriculture specialists, 200 CBP agricultural technicians, 20 agriculture canine teams and 50 non-uniformed trade enforcement specialists and associated operational support personnel,” the union said.

NTEU has been outspoken about the need to hire additional CBP officers.

The union noted to the House subcommittee that CBP’s January 2020 staffing data shows the agency has 24,606 officers with a current requirement for another 2,231 officers. Similarly, the data shows that CBP agriculture specialists accounted for 2,477 onboard, with another 671 required to adequately oversee these imports entering the U.S.

Mark Morgan, acting CBP commissioner, told the House subcommittee during its February 27 appropriations hearing that the agency during fiscal year 2019 “surpassed” its fiscal 2018 hiring by 46%. “CBP hired a total of 3,448 law enforcement personnel, outpacing attrition,” he said in his testimony.

The Trump administration has requested a total $18.2 billion for CBP in its proposed fiscal year 2021 budget request to Congress.

The largest portions of the proposed funding for CBP will go toward strengthening and improving agency land-border infrastructure and adding Border Patrol personnel.

The proposed CBP budget, for example, requests $2 billion to construct another 82 miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, $181.5 million for border station upgrades and $161.2 million to hire and train 750 additional Border Patrol agents.

The proposed fiscal 2021 budget also calls for $25 million to be spent on maintenance of non-intrusive inspection (NII) technology, as well as purchasing 45 small-scale and handheld systems for cargo.

“The funding CBP proposes for border barriers would crowd out other investments that we all agree are high priority,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee during the hearing.

“For instance, it is unclear how many CBP officers are funded or even sustained in the proposed budget,” she told Morgan. “Congress has funded over 2,000 additional officers over the last two years, but your budget does not annualize any of the positions. At the same time, you propose funding to annualize support for Border Patrol agent positions that were specifically not funded by Congress. What explains this mismatch in budgeting?”

CBP during fiscal year 2019 processed 29 million cargo containers at the nation’s seaports and more than 600 million small packages at express and international mail facilities. The agency also collected $84 billion in duties, taxes and fees in fiscal year 2019, a 55% increase over the previous fiscal year.

Morgan told the House subcommittee that he believed that with the current budget request and user fees that CBP should be able to hire an additional 600 officers next fiscal year.