Panel Provides Money for 1,600 More Customs and Border Staff

A Customs and Border Patrol agent examines a vehicle at the border of Mexico and the United States. A Customs and Border Patrol agent examines a vehicle at the border of Mexico and the United States. United States Customs and Border Protection

House appropriators on Wednesday approved legislation giving the Homeland Security Department more money to hire 1,600 new Customs and Border Protection officers in fiscal 2014.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the Homeland Security spending bill, which contains $38.9 billion in discretionary funds for the department’s fiscal 2014 budget, agreeing to the White House’s proposal to increase the number of CBP personnel.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called the move a “welcome recognition of the reality that CBP staffing has been and remains inadequate for its critical homeland security mission” and said the union would “work to see this funding decision implemented.”

The country has 331 land, air and sea ports of entry. There were 21,790 Customs and Border Protection officers in fiscal 2012, according to agency data.

The Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security spending bill is $617.6 million below that of fiscal 2013 and $34.9 million less than President Obama’s request. The panel took issue with several of the administration’s fiscal 2014 proposals for the department. “The committee categorically rejects this flawed budget request for DHS,” the legislation stated.

For example, appropriators restored the administration’s proposed reductions to the number of Secret Service agents and investigative operations.

The spending bill also does not include a federal civilian pay increase for DHS employees; Obama requested a 1 percent pay boost for feds -- now in their third year of a pay freeze -- for 2014. “Should the president provide a civilian pay increase for 2014, it is assumed that the cost of such a pay increase will be absorbed within other amounts appropriated for fiscal year 2014,” the legislation said. The fiscal 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, which the Appropriations Committee approved earlier this week, also does not include a pay raise for feds next year.

CBP is waiting for congressional appropriators to decide on a request to transfer money within its budget to avoid furloughing employees through Sept. 30 because of sequestration. Lawmakers will make a decision on the request by mid-June.

Even if lawmakers grant the request, enabling CBP to eliminate employee furloughs through the end of fiscal 2013, the agency plans to continue a hiring freeze for non-frontline personnel and forgo certain bonuses.

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