Border Patrol Hiring:

Despite Recent Initiatives, Fiscal Year 1999 Hiring Goal Was Not Met

GGD-00-39: Published: Dec 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on Border Patrol hiring, focusing on: (1) the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) ability to meet its 5-year goal to increase the Border Patrol's onboard strength by 1,000 agents each year from fiscal years (FY) 1997 through 2001; (2) INS' efforts to improve its recruiting efforts and hiring process; (3) changes in the years of experience and level of supervision of Border Patrol agents during INS' increased hiring; and (4) the ability of INS' basic training program to support the pace at which Border Patrol agents have been hired, including whether the Border Patrol Academy anticipates having the capacity to meet future growth.

GAO noted that: (1) INS' recruitment program yielded a net increase of 1,002 Border Patrol agents in FY 1997 and a net increase of 1,035 agents in FY 1998 after accounting for attrition; (2) although INS succeeded in increasing the Border Patrol's onboard strength by 1,000 agents each year, it saw a net increase of only 369 agents in FY 1999 because it was unable to recruit enough qualified applicants and retain them through the hiring process; (3) for the 3-year period ending September 30, 1999, INS experienced a net hiring shortfall of 594 agents; (4) INS has had difficulties attracting and retaining qualified applicants; (5) few individuals who apply to the Border Patrol successfully complete the application process; (6) some fail to pass the rigorous entry examination, medical examination, or background investigation, while others withdraw from the process; (7) in FY 1999, failure and drop-out rates were higher than in the past; (8) to address its hiring problems, INS has redirected $2.2 million to enhance its recruitment program, which includes: (a) initiatives to increase Border Patrol agents' involvement in recruitment and fine-tuning INS' hiring process; (b) surveying applicants for reasons why they register for the written examination but do not report for testing to find out their reasons for not reporting, as well as those who do report for testing for their views on the initial part of the hiring process; and (c) asking applicants their reasons for declining Border Patrol job offers; (9) however, INS does not have plans to survey applicants who voluntarily withdraw at other stages later in the process; (10) as hiring has increased, the average experience level of Border Patrol agents has declined agencywide, as well as along the southwest border; (11) the percentage of agents along the southwest border with 2 years of experience or less almost tripled--from 14 percent to 39 percent--between FY 1994 and FY 1998; (12) during the same period, 7 southwest border sectors experienced some increase in the average number of nonsupervisory agents assigned to each supervisory agent; (13) the Tucson sector experienced the greatest increase, with its ratio of nonsupervisory agents to one supervisory agent rising from 8 to 1 in FY 1994 to about 11 to 1 in FY 1998; and (14) by relying on a temporary training facility in Charleston, South Carolina since 1996, the Border Patrol Academy has been able to provide newly hired agents with required training and, according to a Border Patrol official, is prepared to meet the training needs associated with future growth.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: INS determined that surveying applicants as to why they are withdrawing at other key functions later in the hiring process was not cost effective.

    Recommendation: The INS Commissioner should broaden the agency's plans to survey applicants who register for the written examination by also collecting data on why applicants are withdrawing at other key junctures later in the hiring process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security


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