The president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents 16,000 Border Patrol agents, was one of several individuals who testified before Congress yesterday that a lack of manpower is creating problems for the agency.
Brandon Judd, the union president, said that at the Border Patrol’s current hiring rate, any agents hired in 2018 will be halfway to retirement by the time the agency meet’s President Trump’s stated goal of hiring another 5,000 agents.
Judd said in his testimony before the House border and Maritime Security Subcommittee that while the Border Patrol fully supports the proposal to hire the additional agents, the agency is only slated to hire 500 new agents this year with the funding it received.
He also said that this lack of manpower at the agency is one of the causal factors leading to increased violence against agents on the southern border.
Current Border Patrol agent Jon Anfinsen echoed Judd’s comments, saying in his testimony that retirements and attrition are also big factors in the shortage of Border Patrol agents.
Afinsen said that the Border Patrol’s attrition rate is 6%, almost twice the government-wide rate for law enforcement agencies, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This happens in part because agents routinely transfer to other law enforcement agencies, but also because many agents are retiring. Border Patrol agents brought into the agency during a hiring spree in the 1990s are now nearing retirement age.
GAO Report on Border Patrol Hiring
Findings from a recent GAO report confirmed what Judd and Afinsen were saying.
The report, released last November, found that Border Patrol was losing agents faster than it can hire them. The agency hired an average of 523 agents per year while losing an average of 904 agents per year between fiscal years 2013 and 2016.
The Congressionally mandated floor of total full-time agents for the Border Patrol is 21,370. The agency is currently almost 2,000 agents short of that figure.
Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) also asked the witnesses at the hearing what they thought would be optimal for a border wall configuration.
Afinsen said having a wall run from coast to coast is neither necessary nor feasible because of some areas not being practical places to build it, such as along rivers or lakes, where it would make construction difficult, if not impossible. For those types of areas, he said other technological means would help, such as cameras and additional Border Patrol agents to monitor the open areas.
As for the wall itself, Afinsen said that agents need to see what is happening on the other side of it to prepare for engaging potential threats.
He told Bacon, “It doesn’t necessarily need to be see-through, but we need to be able to see what’s happening on the other side, so maybe see-through, but maybe we need to use cameras. The idea is we need to see what’s on the other side preparing to try to get past the wall so we can prepare ourselves.”
Customs and Border Protection recently announced that construction of border wall prototypes had been completed. Congress is still wrangling over building the wall, however, and it has become a sticking point in negotiations to prevent a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires January 19.