The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has raised questions over a Customs and Border Control (CBP) staffing shortage during the nomination of Kevin McAleenan as CBP Commissioner.
AAPA provided the questions to the Senate Finance Committee for it to discuss during its hearing on October 24, 2017 to nominate McAleenan.
McAleenan told the Committee that CBP is working to integrate greater maritime resources into its staffing models and noted CBP had made “sustained innovation” in moving containers.
AAPA said US ports had concerns over shortages of border and customs staff needed, for example, for examining cargo for radiation.
CBP staffing shortages may potentially impact the security and economic welfare of US ports.
The questions form part of a legal record ahead of Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka testifying with CBP before a Field Hearing of the US Department of Homeland Security, in which the CBP is one agency, on October 30, 2017.
Kurt Nagle, President and CEO of AAPA, said in the August, 2017 letter to McAleenan:
“In FY 2015, CBP was funded to hire 2,000 staff, and fewer than 20 officers, or one percent, were assigned to seaports.
“This disproportionate approach to security and CBP staffing at maritime ports cannot continue.
“The nation’s ports handled roughly 1.3 billion metric tons of foreign trade cargo in 2016, and more than 11 million maritime containers and over 11 million international passengers each year.
“Annual increases in volume and periodic surges in ship traffic have continually led to repeated dock-side delays in inspecting and clearing cargo.
“Ports continue to struggle with balancing a CBP staffing shortfall against security threats and business demands.
“The port industry recognizes the internal difficulties that CBP faces to bring on new CBP staff and assign them to maritime operations.
“AAPA commends the recent efforts to exempt polygraph testing in certain situations to hire new staff and shorten the timeframe it takes to bring new CBP staff onboard.
“Initiatives to streamline CBP’s hiring process for veterans has received great reviews within some of the port regions.
“However, not all CBP regional port directors have embraced this policy initiative.
“AAPA encourages you to continue the policy of hiring veterans and assigning them to ports, but to also ensure that all CBP port directors fully embrace this initiative.”