Chairman: Loosen Polygraph Requirements to Speed Up Hiring of More Border Patrol

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) warned that hiring process for additional Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) personnel and replacements is too “slow and arduous” and the government is “falling” further behind with every passing month.

Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the amount of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, seized at the U.S. border went from 2.8 pounds in 2013 to 440 pounds in 2016. McAleenan added that the amount of fentanyl seized this year has already surpassed the 2016 data.

McCaul said CBP officers and Border Patrol agents are “the most important border security resource we have and our final layer of defense.” According to McCaul, CBP is “critically undermanned” and currently “well below its congressional mandated staffing levels” by more than 1,000 officers and 1,800 Border Patrol agents.

“Even with the recent push to hire more officers and agents, the process is slow and arduous. We are simply falling behind every single month and there’s no end in sight as we continue to lose agents and officers through attrition without the ability to quickly hire replacements,” McCaul said during this month’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce Annual Global Supply Chain Summit. “At the current hiring rate approximately 150 to 200 applicants go through the process in order to hire just one agent or officer. This means that CBP would need to have hundreds of thousands of people to apply just to meet their current needs.”

President Trump’s FY2018 budget request includes funds to add 500 additional CBP agents as part of his long-term plan to hire 5,000 additional officers.

McCaul said filling staffing needs is a challenge for CBP due to several factors such as polygraph testing rules.

“We are losing far too many strong applicants because the current process is flawed and as a result we are experiencing a substantial staffing bottleneck,” he said. “Several weeks ago my committee passed a bill to expedite the hiring process by making smarter decisions regarding the polygraph examination policy.”

McCaul said the new legislation would help “alleviate the immediate shortage” of CBP officers and agents.

“This bill provides flexibility to allow the commissioner of CBP to waive the polygraph exam for current federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have already passed a polygraph examination or who have already passed a stringent background investigation,” he said.

McAleenan said the Border Patrol is addressing new threats like synthetic opioids and other synthetic drugs that can “invade” the supply chain in “such small amounts with such great value” to the criminal networks and substantial risk to local communities.

“We see synthetic opioids and other synthetic drugs like fentanyl. In 2013, it was almost unheard of. We seized 2.8 pounds, just over a kilo total of fentanyl at the border. In 2016, it’s 440 pounds. We’ve already exceeded that in 2017,” McAleenan said in his presentation titled International Trade: Opportunities at the Border.