Past Features

November 15, 2017

Border Patrol: Shortage of
manpower -- or brainpower?

Slide from Glenn Spencer's talk at GovSec West, Dallas, Texas - November 19, 2013 -- updated to use recent stats. -- November 14, 2017    
Border Patrol Losing Agents Faster Than They Can Be Hired
    According to the GAO, CBP hired an average of 523 agents per year while losing an average of 904 agents per year between fiscal years 2013 to 2016.
    Additionally, from fiscal years 2011 through 2016, CBP was required to maintain a minimum of 21,370 full-time equivalent agent positions, but the agency has faced challenges in staffing to that minimum level. As of May 2017, it employed 19,500 agents.
    On top of all of these facts, CBP is required to hire another 5,000 agents per an executive order issued by President Trump when he took office.

Glenn Spencer -- November 15, 2017
Stop wasting human resources
Four years ago --- almost to the day --- I gave talk on border security at a conference in Dallas, Texas. The title was, “What is border security --- and when will we know when we have it?” (see video).
    The talk included a look at the use of manpower on the border. I did a quick calculation and estimated that, of 18,516 agents active at the time, only about 1,050 were assigned to the border at any one time.
    I used the figure of 71% to represent the amount of an agent's time assigned to operations and patrol based on a GOA report. According to the most recent report from GAO, that figure is now 60%. Also, the GAO reports now that in FY 2016, about half of all apprehensions occur within one mile of the border.
    Today, there are 19,500 agents on board, compared 18,516 four years ago. Applying the new stats, we can expect to find about 1,335 agents working the border at any one time -- an increase due to children crossing in Texas
    I said the border must be patrolled 24/7. Smugglers work night and day and sometimes might work harder on holidays. So, if we have the need for one agent full-time, we need a total of about five for 24/7 coverage.
    Right now, I am looking out my window at two U.S. Border Patrol vehicles parked right on the border. They are there 24/7. They don't move because they are guarding known smuggling routes.
    One source sets the cost per agent at $171,500.
    Using the figure of 5 agents to man those positions 24/7, and a cost of $150,000 per agent, it cost taxpayers $750,000 per year to have those spots protected. For the two locations that I can see out my window, the total is $1,500,000 per year --- every year.
    I am aware of technology, coupled with proper barriers, that would guard those two border points at a tiny fraction of the one and a half million dollars per year --- and those humans would find more satisfaction in their work other than sitting in one spot.
    It is time we got some smart management running Customs and Border Protection and stop wasting human resources.