Commentary: The Border Trade Alliance today stated its support for H.R. 2213, legislation by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) to reform Customs and Border Protection’s polygraph examination process, which has created needless bureaucratic hurdles in the agency’s ability to recruit new officers.
“The Border Trade Alliance applauds Rep. McSally for her bill to establish a CBP applicant vetting process that will both ensure the nation’s security and streamline the agency’s hiring process,” BTA President Britton Clarke said. “Rep. McSally’s legislation helps state and local law enforcement officers, as well as active and veteran members of the Armed Services, who have already passed strict background checks, transition into CBP jobs. Importantly, CBP can still order a polygraph exam in those cases where an applicant raises questions for the agency in the hiring process.”
Rep. McSally’s bill allows for the waiver of the CBP polygraph examination in cases where a law enforcement officer or active or veteran military member has already been subject to an intense security vetting.
“CBP’s mission is vital to the nation’s security and its economic health, and yet the agency is struggling to recruit the officers necessary to adequately staff our ports of entry,” Clarke said. “We need a recruitment process that positions the agency to recruit highly qualified individuals into its ranks. We urge the House to adopt H.R. 2213.”
The BTA’s letter follows:
June 7, 2017
Hon. Martha McSally
510 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative McSally:
The Border Trade Alliance (BTA) supports your legislation, H.R. 2213, The Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act of 2017, which contains important reforms to the polygraph examination process employed in the recruitment of Customs and Border Protection officers.
For over 30 years, the BTA has sought to support public policies that encourage robust cross-border trade while ensuring our ports of entry have the resources necessary to process that trade securely and efficiently. Adequate port staffing is critical to realizing those goals.
We share your belief that CBP’s ability to recruit new officers into its ranks is hamstrung by a polygraph screening that is overly burdensome and not properly aligned with the needs of today’s CBP.
CBP’s failure to meet Congress’ calls for hiring 2,000 new officers must be addressed swiftly, or our borders will continue to be characterized by long delays and congestion.
Your bill wisely seeks to streamline the recruitment process by waving the existing polygraph exam process for current state or local law enforcement officers in good standing if they have already completed a polygraph examination as a condition of their employment or, in the case of federal law enforcement officials, have already completed a Tier 4 or 5 background investigation. In the case of members of the military or veterans, your bill allows the polygraph exam to be waived for individuals who have received high level security clearances. Finally, your legislation contains an added level of security by permitting CBP to administer a polygraph exam in those cases where a background investigation indicates a polygraph examination is necessary to make a final determination regarding an applicant’s suitability for employment or an employee’s continued employment.
The reforms contained in your legislation are important as we seek new ways to attract talented, qualified individuals into CBP careers with as few redundant, bureaucratic hurdles as possible, while still strengthening border security and ensuring the highest degree of confidence in new recruits.
The Border Trade Alliance is proud to support your legislation and we commend you for working in a bipartisan fashion. Our organization stands ready to assist you in your efforts to advance this bill through to passage.
Russell L. Jones Britton Clarke