The American Federation of Government Employees’ National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd testified today in front of the Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee and discussed the devastating effects of sequestration on border security.
Judd, speaking on behalf of 17,000 Border Patrol agents represented by AFGE, detailed the risks and challenges associated with securing 6,000 miles of international boundaries between the United States and Mexico and Canada and the 2,000 miles of coastal waters, and explained how sequestration would undermine the ability of the agency to carry out its mission.
“There can be no question that across-the-board cuts affect border security and will interfere with our ability to protect the border,” Judd said. “The 20,000 plus Border Patrol agents are our nation’s first line of defense in combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration. The proposed sequestration cuts amount to a 20 percent reduction in our workforce – in our ability to detect illegal weapons, to track and apprehend drug and trafficking cartels, and to prevent illegal entries.”
Sequestration cuts would mean the loss of two hours of manpower per agent per day in addition to 14 furlough days. The current border security system relies on agents working overtime as a cost-saving measure because it is far more economical to pay for two hours of overtime than it is to recruit and train 5,000 new agents, especially under current fiscal constraints.
“Agents typically use the two overtime hours to cover shift changes when points of entry at the border are the most vulnerable,” Judd said. “The overtime period is commonly used to track illegal crossings that occur during shift changes. Drug cartels are well-informed about the agents’ shift changes and information relevant to their chances of apprehension, from the number of beds available at detention centers to the amount of time it takes to process through a holding tank. They know their greatest chance for crossing the border illegally is at the end of each shift, and many plan their crossings accordingly. As a result, agents routinely track and investigate groups that have attempted or succeed in crossing the border during their two-hour overtime work period.
“Border security should not ebb and flow with Washington’s political climate,” Judd continued. “We need a stable pay and administrative system that reduces reliance on overtime, while maximizing the existing workforce. The proposed system should save costs for the taxpayers, bring certainty to the agency’s budget, and most importantly provide a consistent level of patrol, surveillance and investigation that leads to apprehension and deterrence.”