Border Security:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Has Taken Steps to Address GAO's Recommendations Aimed at Ensuring Officers Are Fully Trained

GAO-13-768R: Published: Aug 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 2013.

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Rebecca S. Gambler
(202) 512-6912
gamblerr@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has taken actions to address the recommendations from GAO's December 2011 report on CBP officer training programs aimed at strengthening officer training; three of the four recommendations are closed, and CBP has actions underway to address the remaining open recommendation, as follows:

  • Recommendation 1: Conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the "Back to Basics" and subsequent follow-on training. CBP has completed an evaluation of the "Back to Basics" course, but has not yet conducted an evaluation of the follow-on training. According to CBP officials, CBP's Office of Training and Development plans to complete an evaluation of the follow-on training by November 2013. This recommendation will remain open until the evaluation is complete.
  • Recommendation 2: Conduct a comprehensive assessment of its covert test results to identify the causes of and systemic issues underlying the results. CBP conducted a comprehensive assessment of the document fraud covert test results, reported on key factors contributing to the results, and implemented actions to address these factors. The report completed by CBP's Office of Internal Affairs addressed our recommendation and should help CBP identify patterns or trends that indicate the extent to which CBP officer training, performance, or other systemic issues may contribute to the covert test results. Therefore, this recommendation is closed as implemented.
  • Recommendation 3: Establish a policy that specifies roles and responsibilities for training and related oversight, including oversight of training records. CBP developed a National Policy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) document that specified roles and responsibilities for training and related oversight, including the oversight of training records. The policy and SOP addressed our recommendation and should help strengthen the reliability of CBP's training records. Therefore, this recommendation is closed as implemented.
  • Recommendation 4: Develop a plan for conducting a training needs assessment to address any skill gaps for incumbent CBP officers and then implement that plan. CBP conducted a three-phase analysis of incumbent officer training needs consisting of a (1) training gap analysis, (2) skills gap analysis, and (3) training needs assessment. CBP completed a report that includes the outcomes of this analysis and recommended action steps for addressing training gaps for incumbent officers. Therefore, this recommendation is closed as implemented.

Why GAO Did This Study

CBP, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is responsible for securing U.S. borders and facilitating legal travel and trade. Nearly 22,000 CBP officers are responsible for securing the border at U.S. ports of entry, locations at which individuals and merchandise may seek legal entry into the United States. In December 2011, GAO reported that CBP had revised its training program for new CBP officers in accordance with training standards, but concluded that CBP could do more to identify and address incumbent officer training needs, such as evaluating the effectiveness of training and conducting a comprehensive assessment of the results of covert tests of CBP's inspection processes. For example, CBP developed and mandated training for all CBP officers in response to covert test results (e.g., a refresher course called "Back to Basics," and subsequent follow-on training), but it had not fully evaluated the effectiveness of the training. GAO made four recommendations to the CBP Commissioner to help address these and other issues, and CBP concurred with these recommendations. The explanatory statement accompanying the fiscal year 2013 DHS Appropriations Act mandated GAO to follow up on the findings from its December 2011 report on CBP officer training programs to identify progress that has been made and any remaining deficiencies. This report addresses the actions that CBP has taken to implement the recommendations from GAO's December 2011 report to strengthen CBP officer training programs and the status of these recommendations. To conduct this work, GAO obtained and analyzed documentation and information on CBP's efforts conducted in response to the four recommendations in the December 2011 report, and GAO evaluated whether these actions had addressed each recommendation. GAO also interviewed CBP officials responsible for officer training programs and efforts conducted in response to its recommendations, including officials from the Office of Training and Development, Office of Field Operations, and Office of Internal Affairs. GAO also reviewed its prior reports on CBP training programs for background and context.

What GAO Recommends

GAO makes no recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-6912 or gamblerr@gao.gov.

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