Issue Briefs

Following is the section of a report by the inspector general’s office at DHS listing personnel issues as among the major management challenges for the department.

Since its inception, DHS has had difficulties ensuring it can expeditiously hire and retain highly qualified workers. This situation is exacerbated by changes and vacancies in senior leadership, which are often beyond DHS’ control. As of September 21, 2019, “acting” officials filled almost one-third (18 of 58) of DHS senior leadership positions.

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DHS faces high attrition. At a May 21, 2019 congressional hearing, then Acting Inspector General, John V. Kelly, testified in fiscal year 2017 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spent nearly $75 million to train more than 9,000 new Transportation Security Officers, about 20 percent of whom left within 6 months of being hired. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also reported concern regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) attrition rates. More specifically, in March 2019 congressional testimony, GAO affirmed CBP staffing levels for law enforcement positions consistently fell below target levels and retaining officers in hard-to­fill locations continued to pose a problem for CBP.

On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (EO 13767) requiring the Department to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol Agents and 10,000 new Immigration Officers to expand immigration enforcement activities and programs. Approximately 10 months later, in November 2017, CBP awarded a $297 million contract to Accenture Federal Services (Accenture) as part of its effort to meet EO 13767 hiring mandates. However, CBP did not effectively manage the Accenture contract. As of October 1, 2018 — 10 months into the contract — CBP had paid Accenture approximately $13.6 million for startup costs, security requirements, recruiting, and applicant support. In return, Accenture processed two accepted job offers. CBP also paid Accenture about $500,000 for work CBP had completed in processing 14 applicants on behalf of Accenture. After we issued this management alert, CBP canceled its contract with Accenture.

In February 2019, we reported Border Patrol lacked the data and procedures necessary to determine whether it was meeting workload requirements for investigative and law enforcement activities. Although directed to do so by Congress in 2011, CBP had not completed or submitted a satisfactory workforce-staffing model. This occurred because Border Patrol had not prioritized or assigned adequate resources to develop and implement such a model to guide its hiring and operations. Without a complete workforce-staffing model and accurate data, Border Patrol senior managers could not definitively determine the operational need or best placement for the 5,000 agents DHS was directed to hire under EO 13767.

In addition to hiring and retaining employees, the Department must ensure staff are adequately trained. In November 2018, we reported, as the Department attempts to hire and train 15,000 law enforcement officers, it is already struggling to improve training venues and workaround scenarios to avoid degradation of training and ensure availability of preferred training venues and housing. We recommended the Under Secretary of Management collaborate with Department officials to develop standards and procedures to address these problems and ensure effective expansion of capabilities for law enforcement training related to the hiring surge. The Department has implemented several of our recommendations.

Promoting an Ethical Workplace Where Employees Are Held Accountable

In addition to being adequately trained and highly motivated, the DHS workforce must also be accountable.

In June 2019, we reported the Department lacked sufficient policies and procedures to address employee misconduct. Specifically, the Department’s policy did not include procedures for reporting allegations of misconduct, clear and specific supervisor roles and expectations, or clearly defined key discipline terms used across all components. DHS also was not effectively managing the misconduct program throughout the Department and lacked data monitoring and metrics to gauge program performance. Without oversight through defined policies and program management, DHS could not make informed decisions to improve the program and ensure all components managed the discipline for misconduct consistently. DHS is taking corrective actions to address our recommendations for improvement.