U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it is offering Border Patrol agents a 5% retention bonus for all GS-12 and GS-13 Border Patrol agents. The announcement comes as CBP struggles to deal with a surge in the number of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. which the agency’s commissioner recently said has reached a “breaking point.”
Agents who participate in a 12-month service agreement will receive a retention bonus on a quarterly basis, equal to 5% of their base salary. Service agreements will be available in May. Incentives will begin to accrue in June and agents will begin to receive incentive payments as soon as September.
The agreement to offer the bonuses is the result of months of collaboration between CBP and the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).
“Investing in the men and women of the United States Border Patrol continues to be my top priority,” said Carla Provost, U.S. Border Patrol Chief. “Their experience and expertise is critical to successfully accomplishing the border security mission.”
Fox News reported that the bonus will carry a total cost of $84 million and will be paid out of the CBP’s existing budget. The typical bonus will be around $5,000 for agents who make around $100,000 annually and have been on the job at least seven years. The report also noted that the agency currently has 19,484 agents, down from the peak of 21,444 in 2011.
President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 which directed CBP to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. However, Border Patrol agents have been retiring faster than the agency can hire them, so the bonus is an effort to slow that trend. A GAO report from last year found that CBP hired an average of 523 agents per year while losing an average of 904 agents per year between fiscal years 2013 to 2016.
The NBPC president told Congress last year that this lack of manpower is leading to an increase in violence against agents on the southern border. “In 2017, assaults on Agents were up 76 percent to reach 774,” Brandon Judd, NBPC union president, said in testimony before Congress.
“CBP has aggressively implemented an innovative and multifaceted recruitment and retention strategy, improving the frontline hiring process and related capabilities,” said John P. Sanders, senior official performing the duties of Commissioner. “We are facing a humanitarian and border security crisis on the Southwest border, and those who serve on the frontline are vital to that effort.”