Staffing levels for law enforcement positions at CBP have “consistently remained below target levels” in recent years despite a variety of efforts to improve recruitment and retention that have had some positive impact, GAO has reported.
Since 2015 the CBP has tripled the number of recruitment events it participates in, resulting in an increase in applications. Also during that time it has decreased the average time to hire—for border patrol agents from 628 to 274 days on average–but still “remains lengthy” at an average of more than 300 days across all law officer positions, which can dissuade applicants from seeing the process through.
The hiring process involves 11 separate steps, some of which “can be challenging and time-consuming for applicants to complete—such as the polygraph exam—as well as CBP’s reliance on applicants to promptly complete certain aspects of the process—such as submitting their background investigation form.”
On the retention side, the agency has improved relocation opportunities and increased use of financial incentives and other payments to supplement salaries, especially for those staffed to remote or hard-to-fill locations. “However, retaining law enforcement officers in hard-to-fill locations continues to be challenging for CBP,” GAO found.
GAO said that as of early February, there were 19,443 border patrol agents, nearly 7,000 below the target level—a target that reflects the administration’s call to increase staffing by 5,000 above the authorized 2016 level.