Customs and Border Protection is on pace to hire 1,000 officers above its attrition level in 2019, after struggling for years with officer staffing, John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for the agency’s Office of Field Operations, said Thursday.
“By the end of this year, we should have all of those vacancies filled at our funded level for Congress for the first time in many, many years,” Wagner (pictured above) said during a Wilson Center event.
CBP expects this year to train 2,000 new officers, which are “record-breaking numbers,” after the agency was “lucky” in the past to train 700 to 1,000 new officers a year, he said.
“We actually have enough people in the pipeline right now to hire a couple of thousand for next year,” Wagner said.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee earlier this month advanced a bill introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and John Cornyn, R-Tex., to boost CBP officer hiring.
The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019 would require CBP to hire, assign and train no fewer than 600 new Office of Field Operations officers above the current attrition level during every fiscal year until the total number of officers equals and sustains requirements identified each year in CBP’s workload staffing model. The bill now awaits a Senate floor vote.
In a press release, Cornyn’s office on Friday noted that there is a shortage of nearly 3,300 CBP officers nationwide under the benchmark established by CBP’s workload staffing model, which calls for 27,251 officers.
To increase staffing in hard-to-fill locations, CBP has been offering hiring bonuses of up to 25% to 30% in officers’ first three years of salary, Wagner said.
CBP has provided well over 1,000 of those hiring bonuses in the last few years and is seeing that most officers will stay at least those three years to obtain those bonuses. After that, CBP offers a lateral reassignment policy in which officers can transfer to other ports of entry, swap with other officers around the country or potentially even work in a CBP preclearance program overseas, Wagner said.
CBP’s preclearance program provides for U.S. border inspection and clearance of air passengers and goods at 15 locations in six foreign countries and eliminates the need for passengers to undergo a second CBP inspection upon arrival in the U.S.