Martha McSally, Dan Crenshaw write bill to speed Border Patrol hiring
Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Dan Crenshaw are announcing legislation Thursday to speed up hiring at the government’s border agency by allowing some people to join without having to go through a polygraph test.
Police officers, active duty troops and reservists and veterans would all be eligible to join Customs and Border Protection without having to go through another polygraph if they met certain conditions.
The goal is to cut down on the time it takes to bring in new people, and the polygraph is one of the major factors in delays that can take 10 months to hire Customs and Border Protection officers, who work the ports of entry, and nine months to hire Border Patrol agents.
“The men and women of Customs and Border Protection are some of the finest law enforcement professionals but unfortunately there are simply not enough agents and officers to get the job done,” said Ms. McSally, an Arizona Republican.
Police would have to have three years’ service under their belts and have gone through a background investigation for their current jobs in order to get a polygraph waiver. Military and veterans would need to have served three years and have held a security clearance within the last five years.
The ranks of both the Border Patrol and CBP officers are depleted.
There are supposed to be more than 21,000 Border Patrol agents on duty, and President Trump has set a goal of getting to more than 26,000, but fewer than 2,000 were on the job in 2017, according to a Government Accountability Report last summer.
CBP officers were short more than 1,000 as well, the GAO said. Congress did just approve money in the new 2019 spending bill to hire hundreds of more officers, adding to the shortage.
GAO investigators identified the polygraph as a key part of the hiring hurdle. Not only does it take time to complete, but as of 2017, just a quarter passed the test the worst rate of any major federal law enforcement agency.
“By eliminating the unnecessary and costly polygraph test for vetted applicants with military and law enforcement backgrounds, this legislation quickens the hiring process and eases the burden on applicants, CBP recruitment efforts, and the taxpayer,” Mr. Crenshaw said.
Congress has taken action before, including the 2017 defense policy bill, which allowed for a waiver of the polygraph for any veteran who had held a top secret clearance.
The new bill from Ms. McSally and Mr. Crenshaw would expand those eligible.
The vacancies have long been a thorny issue for Homeland Security.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, grilled Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about them at a hearing Wednesday.
She was unable to guess at how many openings CBP had, leaving Mr. Thompson frustrated.
Ms. Nielsen did, though, say CBP had finally made progress last year by hiring more people than it lost the first time in several years that attrition hasn’t dented the agency’s numbers.