As Donald Trump threatens to shut down the government once again if Democrats refuse to dole out billions of dollars for a phony border wall, another key Trump policy directive on border security is failing miserably.
A report in the Los Angeles Times notes that just after Trump’s 2017 inauguration, he signed executive orders to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Two years later, Customs and Border Protection still has 3,000 job vacancies, an increase of about 2,000 from when Trump signed the orders, the Times reported, citing the Government Accountability Office.
The Border Patrol, which falls under CBP, isn’t even up to the hiring numbers Congress ordered in 2016 (21,360 agents), much less the 5,000 new ones that Trump demanded the following year.
Last weekend, in an unsuccessful attempt to convince Democrats to cave to his demands in exchange for reopening the government, Trump called for 2,750 new border agents, among other measures. That proposal went nowhere, and Trump eventually agreed to reopen the government without wall funding while negotiations continue over border security for three more weeks.
But beyond ordering new border agents to be hired, actually filling the job vacancies has turned out to be complicated.
Per the Times report (emphasis mine):
In a sign of the difficulties, Customs and Border Protection allocated $60.7 million to Accenture Federal Services, a management consulting firm, as part of a $297-million contract to recruit, vet and hire 7,500 border officers over five years, but the company has produced only 33 new hires so far.
It’s not clear from the report whether CBP has actually spent all of that money or if it has only been committed. But $60.7 million in exchange for only 33 new agents seems like a pretty bad deal.
On the upside for Trump, the Border Patrol added 120 new agents last year, the highest net gain in five years, according to the Times.
Still, the Homeland Security inspector general’s office warned last month that CBP could risk “wasting millions of taxpayer dollars” over the Accenture deal, the newspaper said. That deal could be canceled in the coming months.
In 2017, the same office issued a report noting that CBP and ICE were having difficulties implementing Trump’s executive orders. Per the report:
The Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are facing significant challenges in identifying, recruiting, hiring, and fielding the number of law enforcement officers mandated in the Executive Orders. Neither CBP nor ICE could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 additional agents and officers they were directed to hire. Although DHS has established plans and initiated actions to begin an aggressive hiring surge, in recent years the Department and its components have encountered notable difficulties related to long hire times, proper allocation of staff, and the supply of human resources.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson was critical of CBP leadership, telling the Times, “CBP cannot simply farm out its hiring and spend hundreds of millions without addressing systemic problems at the agency.” He added that, “CBP faced high attrition rates even before the Trump administration made it a polarizing organization.”