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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, 
Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 11:00 a.m. EDT: 

Tuesday, June 19, 2007: 

Border Patrol: 

Costs and Challenges Related to Training New Agents: 

Statement of Richard M. Stana, Director: 
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

GAO-07-997T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-997T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Management, Investigations, and Oversight, Committee on Homeland 
Security, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

In May 2006, the President called for comprehensive immigration reform 
that included strengthening control of the countryís borders by, among 
other things, adding 6,000 new agents to the U.S. Border Patrol by the 
end of December 2008. This unprecedented 48 percent increase over 2 
years raises concerns about the ability of the Border Patrolís basic 
training program to train these new agents. This testimony is based on 
a recent report for the ranking member of this subcommittee on the 
content, quality, and cost of the Border Patrolís basic training 
program for new agents and addresses (1) the extent to which the Border 
Patrolís basic training program exhibits the attributes of an effective 
training program and the changes to the program since September 11, 
2001; (2) the cost to train a new agent and how this compares to the 
costs of other similar law enforcement basic training programs; and (3) 
any plans the Border Patrol has developed or considered to improve the 
efficiency of its basic training program. To address these issues, GAO 
reviewed relevant documents; observed classroom training and exercises 
at the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico; assessed the 
methodologies of training cost estimates; and interviewed Border Patrol 
officials. 

What GAO Found: 

The Border Patrolís basic training program exhibits attributes of an 
effective training program. GAOís training assessment guide suggests 
the kinds of documentation to look for that indicate that a training 
program has a particular attribute in place. The Border Patrolís 
training program included all of the applicable key attributes of an 
effective training program. The core curriculum used at the Border 
Patrol Academy has not changed since September 11, but the Border 
Patrol added new material on responding to terrorism and practical 
field exercises. Border Patrol officials are confident that the academy 
can accommodate the large influx of new trainees anticipated over the 
next 2 years. 

In fiscal year 2006, the average cost to train a new Border Patrol 
agent at the academy was about $14,700. While differences in programs 
make a direct comparison difficult, it appears that the Border Patrolís 
average cost per trainee at the academy is consistent with that of 
training programs that cover similar subjects and prepare officers for 
operations in similar geographic areas. For example, the estimated 
average cost per trainee for a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer 
was about $15,300; an Arizona state police officer, $15,600; and a 
Texas state trooper, $14,700. 

The Border Patrol is considering several alternatives to improve the 
efficiency of basic training delivery at the academy and to return 
agents to the field more quickly. For example, in October 2007 the 
Border Patrol plans to implement a proficiency test for Spanish that 
should allow those who pass the test to shorten their time at the 
academy by about 30 days. The Border Patrol is also considering what 
training it can shift from the academy to postacademy training 
conducted in the field, which could further reduce the amount of time 
trainees spend at the academy. However, Border Patrol officials have 
expressed concerns with having a sufficient number of experienced 
agents available to serve as first-line supervisors and field training 
officers. The Border Patrol also currently lacks uniform standards and 
practices for field training, and shifting additional training 
responsibilities to the field could complicate this situation. 

Figure: Border Patrol Agent Growth, Fiscal Years 1996 to 2006, Compared 
with Anticipated Growth, Fiscal Years 2006 to 2009: 

[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. 

[End of figure] 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-997T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Richard M. Stana at (202) 
512-8777 or StanaR@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss our work on 
the costs and challenges related to training 6,000 new Border Patrol 
agents by the end of December 2008. 

The U.S. Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling 8,000 miles of the 
land and coastal borders of the United States to detect and prevent the 
illegal entry of aliens and contraband, including terrorists and 
weapons of mass destruction. Although the Border Patrol apprehends 
hundreds of thousands of people entering the country illegally each 
year, several hundreds of thousands more individuals successfully enter 
the country illegally and undetected each year.[Footnote 1] In May 
2006, the President called for comprehensive immigration reform that 
included strengthening control of the country's borders by, among other 
things, adding 6,000 new agents to the Border Patrol by the end of 
December 2008. This would increase the total number of agents from 
12,349 to 18,319, an unprecedented 48 percent increase over the next 2 
years. The Border Patrol plans to add these new agents to its nine 
southwest border field offices, called sectors, while transferring up 
to 1,000 experienced agents to the northern border. In addition, 
legislation has been proposed in Congress that would authorize an 
additional 10,000 agents, potentially increasing the size of the Border 
Patrol to about 28,000 agents by the end of 2012. 

My testimony today is based on a recent report for the ranking member 
of this subcommittee on the content, quality, and cost of the Border 
Patrol's basic training program for new agents.[Footnote 2] It focuses 
on the following issues: 

* the extent to which the Border Patrol's basic training program for 
new border patrol agents exhibits the attributes of an effective 
training program and how the training program has changed since 
September 11, 2001; 

* the estimated cost to train a new agent at the Border Patrol Academy 
and how the Border Patrol's basic training program and cost compared to 
those of other similar federal and nonfederal law enforcement basic 
training programs; and: 

* any plans the Border Patrol has developed or considered to improve 
the efficiency of its basic training program. 

To determine the extent to which the Border Patrol's training program 
exhibited the attributes and characteristics of an effective training 
program, we reviewed the Border Patrol's basic training curriculum and 
compared it with GAO's guide for assessing federal training 
programs.[Footnote 3] While we determined the presence of indicators of 
particular attributes, we did not assess the extent to which these 
attributes contributed to the quality of the training program. We also 
visited the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico, and observed 
training in progress and discussed training content with the Academy 
Chief and course managers. To determine what changes the Border Patrol 
has made to the basic training program since September 11, we reviewed 
new training materials. 

To determine the cost to train a new Border Patrol agent, we reviewed 
the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's (FLETC) methodology used 
to calculate the average training cost per agent. We assessed the data 
for reliability and found that the data we used for our analyses were 
sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our report. To compare the 
cost of the Border Patrol's basic training program to that of other 
similar basic training programs (i.e., civilian, patrol-based law 
enforcement training for operations in the southwest region of the 
United States), we obtained course curricula and training cost 
information from FLETC, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of 
Indian Affairs (BIA), the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training 
Center, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. We did not identify 
any private firms offering a similar training program. We assessed the 
data for reliability and found them reliable for the purposes of this 
review. 

To determine what plans the Border Patrol has developed or considered 
for improving the efficiency of its basic training program, we reviewed 
relevant documentation and interviewed CBP officials. 

We performed our work from September 2006 through March 2007 and 
updated selected information in June 2007 in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards. 

Summary: 

After reviewing the Border Patrol's basic training program and 
comparing it with GAO's guide for assessing federal training programs, 
we determined that the Border Patrol's basic training program exhibits 
attributes of an effective training program. The Border Patrol's 
training program included all of the applicable key attributes of an 
effective training program.[Footnote 4] The core training curriculum 
used at the Border Patrol Academy has not changed since September 11, 
but the Border Patrol has added new material on responding to terrorism 
and practical field exercises, such as what actions agents should take 
if they encounter a suspected weapon of mass destruction or an 
improvised explosive device. Border Patrol officials are confident that 
the academy can accommodate the large influx of new trainees 
anticipated over the next 2 years. 

In fiscal year 2006, the average cost to train a new Border Patrol 
agent at the academy was about $14,700. This cost represents the 
amounts expended by both the Border Patrol and FLETC. The Border Patrol 
paid about $6,600 for the trainee's meals and lodging, and a portion of 
the cost of instructors, and FLETC paid about $8,100 for tuition, a 
portion of the cost of instructors, and miscellaneous expenses such as 
support services, supplies, and utilities. The $14,700 cost figure does 
not include the costs associated with instructors conducting 
postacademy and field training in the sectors. The Border Patrol's 
average cost per trainee at the academy is consistent with that of 
training programs that cover similar subjects and prepare officers for 
operations in similar geographic areas. For example, the estimated 
average cost per trainee for a BIA police officer was about $15,300; an 
Arizona state police officer, $15,600; and a Texas state trooper, 
$14,700. However, differences in the emphasis of some subject areas 
over others dictated by jurisdiction and mission make a direct 
comparison difficult. For example, while both the Border Patrol and the 
Texas Department of Public Safety require Spanish instruction, the 
Border Patrol requires 214 hours of instruction compared with 50 hours 
for a Texas state trooper. Also, the Border Patrol does not provide 
instruction in investigation techniques, while BIA, Arizona, and Texas 
require 139, 50, and 165 hours of such instruction, respectively. 

The Border Patrol is considering several alternatives to improve the 
efficiency of basic training delivery and to return agents to the 
sectors more quickly. For example, in October 2007 the Border Patrol 
plans to implement a proficiency test for Spanish that should allow 
those who pass the test to shorten their time at the academy by about 
30 days. According to Border Patrol officials, this could benefit about 
half of all trainees, because about half of all recruits already speak 
Spanish. The Border Patrol also plans to convert postacademy classroom 
training to computer-based training beginning in October 2007, allowing 
agents to complete the 1-day-a-week training at their duty stations 
rather than having to travel to the sector headquarters for this 
training. As a result, fewer senior agents will be required to serve as 
instructors for postacademy training. Finally, the Border Patrol is 
considering what other training it can shift from the academy to 
postacademy and field training conducted in the sectors, which could 
further reduce the amount of time trainees spend at the academy. 
However, some Border Patrol officials have expressed concerns over the 
sectors' ability to provide sufficient field training and supervision 
to new agents. For example, officials are concerned with having a 
sufficient number of experienced agents available in the sectors to 
serve as field training officers and first-line supervisors. In 
addition, the Border Patrol does not currently have a uniform field 
training program that establishes uniform standards and practices that 
each sector's field training should follow. The addition of new 
training expectations could complicate this situation. 

Background: 

The U.S. Border Patrol, within the Department of Homeland Security's 
(DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is responsible for 
patrolling 8,000 miles of the land and coastal borders of the United 
States to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens and 
contraband, including terrorists, terrorist weapons, and weapons of 
mass destruction. As of October 2006, the Border Patrol had 12,349 
agents stationed in 20 sectors along the southwest, northern, and 
coastal borders. In May 2006, the President called for comprehensive 
immigration reform that included strengthening control of the country's 
borders by, among other things, adding 6,000 new agents to the Border 
Patrol by the end of December 2008. This would increase the total 
number of agents from 12,349 to 18,319, an unprecedented 48 percent 
increase over the next 2 years. As shown in figure 1, this increase is 
nearly equivalent to the number of agents gained over the past 10 
years. In addition, legislation has been proposed in Congress that 
would authorize an additional 10,000 agents, potentially increasing the 
size of the Border Patrol to about 28,000 agents by the end of 2012. 

Figure 1: Border Patrol Agent Growth, Fiscal Years 1996 to 2006, 
Compared with Anticipated Growth, Fiscal Years 2006 to 2009: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. 

[End of figure] 

FLETC is an interagency training provider responsible for basic, 
advanced, and specialized training for approximately 82 federal 
agencies, including CBP's Border Patrol. Under a memorandum of 
understanding, FLETC hosts the Border Patrol's training academy in 
Artesia, New Mexico, and shares the cost of providing training with the 
Border Patrol. For example, FLETC provides the facilities, some 
instructors (e.g., retired Border Patrol agents), and services (e.g., 
laundry and infirmary) that are paid for out of FLETC's annual 
appropriations. CBP's Office of Training and Development designs the 
training curriculum (in conjunction with the Border Patrol and with 
input from FLETC) for the academy, administers the Border Patrol 
Academy, and provides permanent instructors and staff. 

Basic training for new Border Patrol agents consists of three 
components: (1) basic training at the academy, (2) postacademy 
classroom training administered by the academy but conducted in the 
sectors, and (3) field training conducted on the job in the sectors. 
The academy portion of the training is currently an 81-day program 
consisting of 663 curriculum hours in six subject areas: Spanish, law/ 
operations, physical training, driving, firearms, and general training. 

After graduating from the academy, new Border Patrol agents are 
required to attend classroom instruction at their respective sectors in 
Spanish and law/operations 1 day a week for a total of 20 weeks. 
Finally, new agents are generally assigned to senior agents in a 
sector's field training unit for additional on-the-job training 
intended to reinforce new agents' skills in safely, effectively, and 
ethically performing their duties under actual field conditions. 

The Border Patrol's Basic Training Program Exhibits Attributes of an 
Effective Training Program: 

The Border Patrol's basic training program exhibits attributes of an 
effective training program. GAO's training assessment guide suggests 
the kinds of documentation to look for that indicate that a training 
program has a particular attribute in place, such as incorporating 
measures of effectiveness into its course designs. As shown in table 1, 
the Border Patrol was able to document that its training program had 
key indicators in place for the applicable attributes of an effective 
training program.[Footnote 5] 

Table 1: GAO Attributes of an Effective Training Program: 

Planning and front-end analysis. 

Check; 
Training goals are consistent with its overall mission, goals, and 
culture. 

Check; 
Has strategic and annual performance planning processes that 
incorporate human capital professionals. 

Check; 
Determines the skills and competencies its workforce. 

Check; 
Identifies the appropriate level of investment to provide for training. 

Check; 
Has measures to assess the contributions that training efforts make 
toward individual mastery of learning. 

Check; 
Incorporates employees' developmental goals in its planning processes. 

Check; 
Integrates the need for continuous and lifelong learning into its 
planning processes. 

Check; 
Considers governmentwide reforms and other targeted initiatives to 
improve management and performance when planning its training programs. 

Check; 
Has a formal process to ensure that strategic and tactical changes are 
promptly incorporated in training. 

Design and development. 

Check; 
Ensures that training is connected to improving individual and agency 
performance in achieving specific results. 

Check; 
The design of the training program is integrated with other strategies 
to improve performance and meet emerging demands. 

Check; 
Uses the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized 
approaches for its training. 

Check; 
Uses criteria in determining whether to design training programs in-
house or obtain from a contractor or other external source. 

Check; 
Compares the merits of different delivery mechanisms (such as classroom 
or computer-based training) and determines what mix to use to ensure 
efficient and cost-effective delivery. 

Check; 
Determines a targeted level of improved performance in order to ensure 
that the cost of a training program is appropriate to achieve the 
anticipated benefit. 

Check; 
Incorporates measures of effectiveness into courses it designs. 

Implementation. 

Check; 
Agency leaders communicate the importance of training and developing 
employees, and their expectations for training programs to achieve 
results. 

Check; 
Planning and front-end analysis: Has a training and performance 
organization that is held accountable, along with the line executives, 
for the maximum performance of the workforce. 

Check; 
Agency managers are responsible for reinforcing new behaviors, 
providing useful tools, and identifying and removing barriers to help 
employees implement learned behaviors on the job. 

n/a; 
Selects employees (or provides the opportunity for employees to self-
select) to participate in training and development efforts. 

Check; 
The agency considers options in paying for employee training and 
development and adjusting employee work schedules so that employees can 
participate in these developmental activities. 

Check; 
Takes actions to foster an environment conducive to effective training. 

Check; 
Takes steps to encourage employees to buy in to the goals of training 
efforts. 

Check; 
Collects data during implementation to ensure feedback on its training 
programs. 

Evaluation. 

Check; 
Systematically plans for and evaluates the effectiveness of its 
training efforts. 

Check; 
Uses the appropriate analytical approaches to assess its training 
programs. 

Check; 
Uses performance data (including qualitative and quantitative measures) 
to assess the results achieved through training efforts. 

Check; 
Incorporates evaluation feedback into the planning, design, and 
implementation of its training efforts. 

Check; 
Incorporates different perspectives (including those of line managers 
and staff, customers, and experts in areas such as financial, 
information, and human capital management) in assessing the impact of 
training on performance. 

Check; 
Tracks the cost and delivery of its training programs. 

Check; 
Assesses the benefits achieved through training programs. 

Check; 
Compares its training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of 
other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons 
learned. 

Source: GAO analysis based on GAO-04-546G: 

Check = indicators (in place or in development) of the attribute: 

n/a = not applicable: 

[End of table] 

In addition, the Border Patrol is pursuing accreditation of its 
training program from the Federal Law Enforcement Training 
Accreditation organization. The core training curriculum used at the 
Border Patrol Academy has not changed since September 11, but the 
Border Patrol added new material on responding to terrorism and 
practical field exercises. For example, the Border Patrol added an 
antiterrorism course that covers, among other things, what actions 
agents should take if they encounter what they believe to be a weapon 
of mass destruction or an improvised explosive device. The Border 
Patrol also incorporated practical field exercises that simulate a 
variety of situations that agents may encounter, such as arresting an 
individual who is armed with a weapon, as shown in figure 2. With 
regard to capacity, Border Patrol officials told us they are confident 
that the academy can accommodate the large influx of new trainees 
anticipated over the next 2 years. 

Figure 2: Trainees Engaged in Simulated Apprehension of an Armed 
Individual: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

The Average Cost to Train a New Border Patrol Agent in Fiscal Year 2006 
Was About $14,700 and Was Comparable to Those of Other Federal and 
Nonfederal Law Enforcement Training Programs: 

In fiscal year 2006, the average cost to train a new Border Patrol 
agent at the academy was about $14,700. This cost represents the 
amounts expended by both the Border Patrol and FLETC. (See table 2.) 
The Border Patrol paid about $6,600 for the trainee's meals and 
lodging, and a portion of the cost of instructors, and FLETC paid about 
$8,100 for tuition, a portion of the cost of instructors, and 
miscellaneous expenses such as support services, supplies, and 
utilities. The $14,700 cost figure does not include the costs 
associated with instructors conducting postacademy and field training 
in the sectors. 

Table 2: Average Cost to Train a New Border Patrol Agent, Fiscal Year 
2006: 

Tuition; 
FLETC: $1,773; 
CBP: 0; 
Total cost to DHS: $ 1,773. 

Meals; 
FLETC: 0; 
CBP: $2,010; 
Total cost to DHS: 2,010. 

Lodging; 
FLETC: 0; 
CBP: 1,826; 
Total cost to DHS: 1,826. 

Instructor cost per student; 
FLETC: 3,069; 
CBP: 2,805; 
Total cost to DHS: 5,874. 

Miscellaneous[A]; 
FLETC: 3,250; 
CBP: 0; 
Total cost to DHS: 3,250. 

Total cost per student; 
FLETC: $8,092; 
CBP: $6,641; 
Total cost to DHS: $14,733. 

Source: Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. 

Note: While FLETC's costs include the cost of training materials for 
postacademy training conducted in the sectors, these costs do not 
include the cost of postacademy instructors or field training conducted 
in the sectors. 

[A] Miscellaneous costs include items such as support services (health 
unit, uniform laundry, janitorial), supplies (athletic trainer and 
student supplies, utility uniforms), and utilities (garbage collection, 
gas, electricity, and water and sewer). 

[End of table] 

For fiscal year 2007, the average cost to train a new agent will 
increase to about $16,200. This is primarily due to an increase in the 
number of instructors hired, which increased CBP's instructor costs 
from about $2,800 to $6,100 per student. 

The Border Patrol's average cost per trainee at the academy is 
consistent with that of training programs that cover similar subjects 
and prepare officers for operations in similar geographic areas. For 
example, the estimated average cost per trainee for a BIA police 
officer was about $15,300; an Arizona state police officer, $15,600; 
and a Texas state trooper, $14,700. However, differences in the 
emphasis of some subject areas over others dictated by jurisdiction and 
mission make a direct comparison difficult. For example, while both the 
Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety require Spanish 
instruction, the Border Patrol requires 214 hours of instruction, 
compared with 50 hours for a Texas state trooper. Similarly, the Border 
Patrol does not provide instruction in investigative techniques, while 
BIA, Arizona, and Texas require 139, 50, and 165 hours of such 
instruction, respectively. Table 3 shows a comparison of Border 
Patrol's basic training program with other federal and nonfederal law 
enforcement basic training programs. 

Table 3: Border Patrol's Basic Training Program Compared with Other 
Federal and Nonfederal Law Enforcement Basic Training Programs: 

Class size (average); 
Border Patrol Academy: 50; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: 50; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: 40; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: 130. 

Length of training (weeks); 
Border Patrol Academy: 16; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: 16; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: 36; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: 26. 

Length of training (hours); 
Border Patrol Academy: 663; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: 736; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: 680; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: 1,246. 

Cost per student; 
Border Patrol Academy: $14,733; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: $15,291; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: $15,555; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: $14, 739. 

Course curriculum: Spanish; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 214; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: n/a; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: n/a; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 50. 

Course curriculum: Law/operations; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 191; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 152; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 
223.5; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 567. 

Course curriculum: firearms training; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 67; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 71.25; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 70; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 119.5. 

Course curriculum: Driving training; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 44; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 104.5; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 28; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 71. 

Course curriculum: Basic investigative techniques; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: n/a; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 139; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 50; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 165. 

Course curriculum: Physical fitness and safety; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 125; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 239.5; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 
114.75; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 96.5. 

Course curriculum: Antiterrorism; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 8; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 9; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 4; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 16. 

Course curriculum: General training and administration; 
Border Patrol Academy: Training hours: 14; 
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Training hours: 21; 
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center: Training hours: 
189.75; 
Texas Department of Public Safety: Training hours: 161. 

Source: GAO analysis of information received from FLETC, the Office of 
Border Patrol, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Southern Arizona Law 
Enforcement Training Center, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

Note: Training hours may not add to length of training due to rounding. 

n/a = not applicable: 

[End of table] 

Plans under Consideration to Improve Basic Training Efficiency May 
Present Challenges: 

The Border Patrol is considering several alternatives to improve the 
efficiency of basic training delivery and to return agents to the 
sectors more quickly. For example, in October 2007 the Border Patrol 
plans to implement a proficiency test for Spanish that should allow 
those who pass the test to shorten their time at the academy by about 
30 days. According to Border Patrol officials, this could benefit about 
half of all trainees, because about half of all recruits already speak 
Spanish. The Border Patrol also plans to convert postacademy classroom 
training to computer-based training beginning in October 2007, allowing 
agents to complete the 1-day-a-week training at their duty stations 
rather than having to travel to the sector headquarters for this 
training. As a result, fewer senior agents will be required to serve as 
instructors for postacademy training. Finally, the Border Patrol is 
considering what other training it can shift from the academy to 
postacademy and field training conducted in the sectors, which could 
further reduce the amount of time trainees spend at the academy. 

While these strategies may improve the efficiency of training at the 
academy, officials expressed concern about the sectors' ability provide 
adequate supervision and continued training once the new agents arrive 
at the sectors. Some Border Patrol officials are concerned with having 
enough experienced agents available in the sectors to serve as first- 
line supervisors and field training officers for these new agents. 
According to the Chief of the Border Patrol, agencywide the average 
experience level of Border Patrol agents is about 4 or 5 years of 
service. However, in certain southwest border sectors the average 
experience level is only about 18 months. Moreover, the supervisor-to- 
agent ratio is higher than the agency would like in some southwest 
sectors. Border Patrol officials told us that a 5-to-1 agent-to- 
supervisor ratio is desirable to ensure proper supervision of new 
agents, although the desired ratio in certain work units with more 
experienced agents would be higher. Our analysis of Border Patrol data 
showed that as of October 2006, the overall agent-to-supervisor ratios 
for southwest sectors, where the Border Patrol assigns all new agents, 
ranged from about 7 to 1 up to 11 to 1. 

These ratios include some work units with a higher percentage of 
experienced agents that do not require the same level of supervision as 
new agents. To augment the supervision of new agents, the Border Patrol 
is considering using retired Border Patrol agents to act as mentors for 
new agents. Nevertheless, given the large numbers of new agents the 
Border Patrol plans to assign to the southwest border over the next 2 
years, along with the planned reassignment of experienced agents from 
the southwest border to the northern border, it will be a challenge for 
the agency to achieve the desired 5-to-1 ratio for new agents in all 
work units in those sectors receiving the largest numbers of new 
agents. 

In addition to concerns about having a sufficient number of experienced 
agents to serve as supervisors and field training officers, the Border 
Patrol does not have a uniform field training program that establishes 
uniform standards and practices that each sector's field training 
should follow. As a result, Border Patrol officials are not confident 
that all new trainees currently receive consistent postacademy field 
training. Moreover, the addition of new training expectations may 
complicate this situation. The Border Patrol is in the process of 
developing a uniform field training program that it plans to implement 
beginning in fiscal year 2008. 

Concluding Observations: 

While Border Patrol officials are confident that the academy can 
accommodate the large influx of new trainees anticipated over the next 
2 years, the larger challenge will be the sectors' capacity to provide 
adequate supervision and training. The rapid addition of new agents 
along the southwest border, coupled with the planned transfer of more 
experienced agents to the northern border, will likely reduce the 
overall experience level of agents assigned to the southwest border. In 
turn, the Border Patrol will be faced with relying on a higher 
proportion of less seasoned agents to supervise these new agents. In 
addition, the possible shifting of some training from the academy to 
the sectors could increase demand for experienced agents to serve as 
field training officers. Moreover, without a standardized field 
training program, training has not been consistent from sector to 
sector, a fact that has implications for the sectors' ability to add 
new training requirements and possibly consequences for how well agents 
will perform their duties. To ensure that these new agents become 
proficient in the safe, effective, and ethical performance of their 
duties, it will be extremely important that new agents have the 
appropriate level of supervision and that the Border Patrol have a 
sufficient number of field training officers and a standardized field 
training program. 

Mr. Chairman, this completes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
respond to any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may 
have at this time. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information about this testimony, please contact me at 
(202) 512-8816 or by e-mail at Stanar@gao.gov. Key contributors to this 
testimony were Michael Dino, Assistant Director; Mark Abraham; E. Jerry 
Seigler; and Julie Silvers. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this testimony. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Congressional Research Service, Border Security: The Role of the 
U.S. Border Patrol, RL32562 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 25, 2006). 

[2] GAO, Homeland Security: Information on Training New Border Patrol 
Agents, GAO-07-540R (Washington, D.C.: March 30, 2007). 

[3] GAO, Human Capital: A Guide for Assessing Strategic Training and 
Development Efforts in the Federal Government, GAO-04-546G (Washington, 
D.C.: March 2004). 

[4] One attribute dealing with the selection or voluntary self- 
selection of employees was not applicable because basic training is 
mandatory for all new Border Patrol agents. 

[5] One attribute dealing with the selection or voluntary self- 
selection of employees was not applicable because basic training is 
mandatory for all new Border Patrol agents.

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