Border Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Provides Integrity-Related Training to Its Officers and Agents throughout Their Careers

GAO-13-769R Published: Aug 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 2013.
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What GAO Found

U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) integrity-related training courses are systematic and integrated--that is, they are offered in succession and required at each stage of an employee's career, as well as standardized and regularized--that is, the same content is provided by the same method on a predetermined, regular schedule. For example, courses are required throughout a CBP officer's and Border Patrol (BP) agent's career at the basic and supervisory levels, as well as on an annual basis. In addition, courses are provided in two formal settings, either online or in a classroom, and course content is overseen by CBP's Office of Training and Development (OTD) to ensure that it is the same for all employees within respective stages of their careers. Last, courses are offered on a predetermined, regular schedule at the basic and supervisory levels, and on an annual basis. Additionally, the Office of Field Operations (OFO) requires its officers to complete mandatory integrity-related courses at the 2-, 5-, and 10-year career points.

CBP has not yet finalized its comprehensive integrity strategy, as called for in its Fiscal Year 2009-2014 Strategic Plan. In response to the recommendation in our December 2012 report that CBP set target timelines for completing and implementing a comprehensive integrity strategy, CBP set a timeline for completing the strategy by May 2013. However, as of July 2013, CBP has not yet finalized the strategy. In early July 2013, CBP Internal Affairs (IA) officials stated that integrity-related training is part of the draft strategy. However, the strategy has not yet been finalized. We will continue to monitor CBP's efforts to complete and implement the strategy in following up on our December 2012 report recommendations.

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. CBP officers, within OFO, 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. BP agents, within the Office of Border Patrol (OBP), are responsible for securing the national border between the ports of entry. OTD designs, develops, and delivers CBP-wide training courses and establishes training standards and policies. CBP's Office of Chief Counsel is responsible for developing and providing annual ethics training for employees who submit public financial disclosure information as well as some ethics training for officers assigned overseas. CBP IA is responsible for promoting the integrity of CBP's workforce, programs, and operations. DHS officials have stated that drug-trafficking organizations are attempting to infiltrate the CBP workforce through conspired hiring operations and aggressive targeting of incumbent CBP officers and BP agents. DHS officials have testified that CBP's increased hiring of officers and agents since fiscal year 2006 has increased the opportunities for attempted corruption of the CBP workforce through bribery, infiltration, or other means. In December 2012, GAO reported on CBP's efforts to ensure the integrity of its workforce. For the purposes of that report, integrity issues included acts of corruption such as accepting cash bribes and other gratuities in return for allowing contraband or inadmissible aliens into the country, as well as other criminal activities or misconduct such as drug or alcohol abuse. GAO concluded that CBP had implemented integrity-related programs, but faced challenges in managing and overseeing these programs. In addition, GAO found that CBP had not completed an integrity strategy, as called for in its Fiscal Year 2009-2014 Strategic Plan. GAO recommended, among other things, that CBP set target timelines for completing and implementing a comprehensive integrity strategy to enhance CBP's efforts to mitigate the risk of corruption and misconduct among officers and agents. DHS concurred with this recommendation. The House Committee Report (112-492) accompanying the fiscal year 2013 DHS Appropriations Act mandated GAO to review CBP's ethics, conduct, and integrity training programs. This report addresses the extent to which (1) CBP's training programs on ethics-, integrity-, and conduct-related issues are systematic and integrated, and standardized and regularized throughout an agent's or officer's career, and (2) CBP has developed a comprehensive integrity strategy that includes training. To conduct our work, we identified and analyzed mandatory and optional integrity-related course listings, as of June 2013, offered for CBP officers and BP agents throughout their careers. Additionally, we interviewed CBP officials responsible for managing training programs and efforts, as well as CBP officials responsible for developing CBP's comprehensive integrity strategy.

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