Federal Manager's Daily Report

The variety of approaches the CBP is taking toward its recruitment and retention problems is showing some results but the agency remains chronically understaffed, GAO has said.

The report was the latest in a series of audits and congressional inquiries into the agency’s ability to fill the positions already in effect, much less those that the administration and some in Congress want to add. The agency ended fiscal 2017 more than 1,100 CBP officers below its target staffing level, GAO found.

On the hiring side, the agency has established a central recruitment office, increased its participation in recruitment events and engaged a contractor to more effectively target potential applicants and better utilize data to enhance CBP’s recruitment efforts, among other steps. The number of applications for law enforcement positions has tripled since 2013.

Meanwhile, average hiring time has improved over the last two years but it remains high: from 396 days to 318 for CBP officers, from 628 to 274 for border patrol agents and from 365 to 262 for air and maritime interdiction agents. Extensive background checking and other forms of vetting such as polygraph exams for such positions continue to slow the hiring process, it said.

On the retention side, CBP has recently pursued the use of financial incentives and other payments to supplement salaries, especially for those staffed to remote or hard-to-fill locations. However, low desirability of many postings remains a key retention challenge and CBP further lacks a formal process for capturing information on departing employees, such as an exit survey, that would help it understand its retention challenges and better address them, the report said.