Trump Administration Seeks Outside Help to Hire 26,000 New Immigration Enforcement Personnel

CBP just awarded a separate $300 million contract for Border Patrol hiring assistance.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking to contract with a private sector consultant to help bring on nearly 26,000 new employees over the next several years, creating optimistic annual objectives to meet and exceed President Trump’s agenda.

The request for information comes as another Homeland Security Department component, Customs and Border Protection, recently issued a contract valued at up to $297 million in support of a hiring push of its own. CBP’s contract asks for assistance in hiring just 30 percent of the new employees identified in ICE’s RFI. The solicitations resulted from an executive order Trump signed in January calling on ICE to hire 10,000 new agents and the Border Patrol to onboard 5,000 additional employees.

The ICE request for information asks for support in bringing on 2,500 employees in the base year of the contract, beginning in March 2018. The contract would then have four option years. In the first three, the selected company would help ICE hire 7,000 new employees annually. In the final year, beginning March 2022, ICE would bring on 2,200 new workers. By comparison, ICE hired just 1,557 new employees across all job series in fiscal 2017.

Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said ICE has received authority to use direct hiring and dual compensation waivers, and has made general improvements to its hiring processes. These changes, Bennett said, will allow ICE to "meet the anticipated unprecedented hiring numbers in the coming years."

The contract would be fixed price, but the agency did not provide any estimate of its value. ICE requested a “rough order of magnitude” from vendors to assess potential industry sources and general cost estimates.

The contractor’s responsibilities would include recruitment and staffing, payroll support, processing support, classification and position management, benefits support and general administrative assistance. The chosen vendor would develop “multiple recruitment strategies,” draft vacancy announcements, review applications to determine qualifications, assist hiring managers in their reviews and determine pay rates for job offers.

The total duration of the contract will not exceed 66 months, ICE said, though for purposes of the RFI the agency was considering it 60 months. The value of the contract could be pared back as duties are assumed by ICE’s own human resources employees or the hiring requirements no longer exist. Interested vendors had until Monday to respond to the RFI.

While Trump requested a 10,000 capacity surge among the ICE workforce, the ICE solicitation asks for assistance in hiring 25,700 employees. The agency currently employs just 20,000 total staff. Trump’s mandated hiring surge is slated to take place entirely within ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, while the RFI would boost hiring both at that office and the support staff for the new enforcement agents.

ICE officials said in a recent recap of the agency's fiscal 2017 actions that it was making positive progress on fulfilling Trump’s hiring order. In September, the House approved a fiscal 2018 spending bill that would provide $186.5 million for ICE to boost its ranks by 1,000 agents. A Senate appropriations bill did not provide funding for any new ICE agents. “Passback” guidance from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget sent as part of the fiscal 2019 budget process that leaked to Senate Democrats last week required DHS to onboard 2,000 ICE agents in the fiscal year, despite DHS’ suggestion it hire just 1,000.

The Border Patrol has seen less success in meeting Trump’s hiring requirement. While CBP brought on 1,477 frontline personnel in fiscal 2017, most were for customs officer positions rather than BP agents. Ronald Vitiello, CBP’s acting deputy commissioner, said earlier in December the Border Patrol’s hiring last fiscal year failed to keep pace with losses sustained at the agency.

An omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2017 actually cut CBP workforce spending by $200 million, as the agency indicated to Congress it would hire 3,000 fewer agents than it initially projected. The DHS inspector general has estimated that based on current hiring and attrition rates, CBP would need 750,000 applicants to fill Trump’s order. It is, however, adjusting its polygraph exam, changing its physical fitness test and reforming its training process, factors that would affect the hiring rate. Agency leaders have said the average application processing time has decreased from 400 days in 2014 to 160 days today.

CBP selected Accenture Federal Services for its contract, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. The agreement is also for one base year and four option years. It will require the consultancy to help CBP hire 7,500 employees: the 5,000 Border Patrol agents Trump asked for, 2,000 customs officers, and 500 air and marine officers.

In 2016, Obama administration officials testified to Congress and CBP workforce models suggested the agency needed 2,100 new customs officers. That figure was on top of the 2,000 officers Congress had authorized in a fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill, positions the agency has struggled to fill. About 1,400 of those 2014-authorized positions remain vacant.

Accenture will provide “expert market research, data analytics, recruitment and advertising expertise aimed at applicants for law enforcement opportunities” at CBP, according to the agency’s solicitation. DHS in 2016 selected Accenture to assist the Transportation Security Administration hire 8,000-10,000 employees annually.

Jennifer Gabris, a CBP spokeswoman, said “changing generational values,” the legalization of marijuana in some states and a “growing distrust” of law enforcement have contributed to the agency’s hiring woes. She noted the complex nature of CBP’s hiring standards in justifying the “significant investment” required by the contract’s price tag.

“Not unlike other major companies and organizations, we are expanding our recruiting and hiring efforts to find better, more effective ways to recruit, hire and retain frontline personnel,” Gabris said. “As such, CBP awarded a contract to Accenture Federal Services to augment our internal hiring capabilities.”

She added the contract would provide insight beyond its five-year lifespan and was therefore an “investment in CBP’s workforce.” She said the agency remains optimistic about its staffing goals and would “pursue further innovations” in addition to the Accenture contract.

Accenture did not respond to inquiries in time for this report.