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Thu, Mar 17, 2011

CBP Staffing Must Be Increased, NTEU Tells Congress

Calls Current Situation "Penny Wise And Pound Foolish"

The leader of the union representing the 26,000-employee CBP workforce told a House subcommittee Wednesday that failure to provide adequate resources and staffing for either the homeland security or trade facilitation missions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a short-sighted act that threatens the nation's borders and robs the Treasury of much-needed revenue, 

NTEU President Colleen Kelley

In support of that position, President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) said that CBP trade personnel have essentially been frozen at March 2003 levels resulting in a decline of billions of dollars in trade-related revenue. In its trade duties, CBP trails only the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of revenue collected for the government.

President Kelley emphasized in testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee that when CBP was created, its dual missions included safeguarding the nation's borders and ports as well as regulating and facilitating international trade. CBP's trade personnel not only collect import duties, they enforce a wide range of U.S. trade laws-but their mission suffers when it is not supported by sufficient resources and personnel. The subcommittee is reviewing the administration's fiscal 2012 budget request for CBP.

For example, in 2005, CBP processed some 29 million trade entries and collected $31.4 billion in revenue; by 2009, however, the amount of duties and fees collected had fallen by $2 billion, to some $29 billion. Once again, reflecting the pattern of the past eight years, the fiscal 2012 budget proposes no increase in CBP trade operations personnel. "Given the serious concern about reducing the nation's deficit, this is a very costly, penny-wise, pound-foolish approach," the NTEU leader said. Moreover, President Kelley said there is an urgent need to boost staffing of Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs) and Agriculture Specialists.

While the proposed budget does request funds for an additional 409 CBPOs beyond the fiscal 2011 number, President Kelley noted with disappointment that even with that increase, the number of frontline employees would be 108 Officers fewer than in fiscal 2009. These numbers are the reality despite independent studies showing that CBP is understaffed at ports of entry by thousands of Officers, she said in her testimony. 

President Kelley emphasized her particular concern at the decrease in the fiscal 2012 budget request of $20 million in funding for inspectional overtime at air, land and sea ports of entry. "NTEU urges the committee to fully fund CBP overtime in fiscal 2012," she said, stressing its importance to passenger and cargo wait times when ports are understaffed.

The CBP workforce is made up of employees who are "capable and committed to the varied missions of DHS, from border control to the facilitation of legitimate trade and travel," Kelley said. "They are proud of their part in keeping our country free from terrorism, our neighborhoods safe from drugs and our economy safe from illegal trade. These men and women are deserving of more resources and technology to perform their jobs better and more efficiently."

FMI: www.nteu.org


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