At the Department of Homeland Security Veterans Recruitment and hiring event CBP recruiters speak with veterans in Washington D.C., on Aug. 22, 2017. (James Tourtellotte/CBP)

GAO Reports on CBP Progress and Challenges in Recruiting, Hiring, Retention

The Government Accountability Office released a report on Custom and Border Protection’s progress and challenges in recruiting, hiring and retaining law enforcement personnel.

The report highlighted several steps CBP has taken in recent years to increase its recruitment levels, including establishing a central recruitment office and increasing its participation in recruitment events. The GAO found that, from fiscal years (FY) 2013 through 2017, the amount of applications the CBP received for all its operational components – the Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol and Air and Marine Operations – more than tripled.

In November 2017, the CBP hired a contractor to target potential applications and better utilize data to enhance recruitment efforts. However, the report said it is too early to tell what impact the contractor will have on recruitment numbers.

The CBP also improved its hiring process by two key metrics: reducing its time-to-hire and increasing the percentage of applicants that are hired. The CBP’s time-to-hire has decreased since FY 2015. These improvements, paired with the increase in applications, have resulted in more hires. But the time-to-hire still remains lengthy – in FY 2017, it took applications more than 300 days, on average, to complete the process. Certain factors contribute to the lengthy process such as the polygraph exam.

CBP enhanced its retention efforts, but staffing levels for law enforcement agents consistently remained below target. For example, CBP ended FY 2017 1,100 officers below its target staffing level. Officials cited employees’ inability to relocate to locations that are more desirable as a main retention problem. CBP has offered some relocation opportunities, as well as pursued the use of incentives and other payments to supplement salary, especially for those in hard-to-fill locations. However, CBP does not currently have a system to collect information on departing employees. Collecting and analyzing such data would better help CBP understand retention problems and take action to address them.

GAO recommended that CBP systematically collect and analyze data on outgoing law enforcement officers and use the information to inform retention efforts. The Department of Homeland Security concurred with the recommendation.

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