Shoring up our nation’s porous southern border was a central during the 2016 presidential campaign. Significantly increasing border patrol agents’ boots on the ground—both to the north and the south—is fundamental to better border security. Yet, hiring has been a problem, a significant problem, for a long, long time. That may be about to change, and may mean some excellent opportunities at the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection for veterans and cleared professionals.


According to a Los Angeles Times report in early January, over 2,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) jobs were unfilled, the product of an essentially broken hiring process marked by questionable polygraph processes. For example, in one case, a former Marine helicopter pilot for President Bush and Vice President Cheney failed the lie detector test. In fact, “Two out of three applicants to CBP fail its polygraph test, according to the agency. That’s more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies,” the Times reported.  Now, four months later, reports indicate that CPB hiring is in crisis. “Customs Border Patrol’s headcount has fallen below 20,000 for the first time since 2009,” The Chief reports. “Currently, only one percent of those who apply are hired.” In short, there are some 2,800 CPB jobs waiting to be filled with about 1,700 new border patrol agents and 1,000 new CBP officers.


Thanks to pending legislation sponsored by Arizona lawmaker Senator Jeff Flake, the “Boots on the Border Act of 2017,” hiring at CPB may be expedited, and certain law enforcement officers and veterans are about to be hot commodities under Flake’s legislation. Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee backed the bill “which would waive duplicative Customs and Border Protection (CBP) polygraph hiring requirements for applicants who have qualifying law enforcement or military experience.” If the bill makes it to the President’s desk, then several categories of traditionally cleared professionals will have a significant advantage in the CPB hiring process. That includes qualified state and Federal law enforcement and “members of the military, veterans, members of the Reserves and National Guard who have [1] served at least four years in the Armed Forces, [2] held a security clearance within the past five years, [3] received or are eligible to receive an honorable discharge and [4] have not engaged in criminal activity or serious misconduct under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”


Customs and Border Protection takes pride in its veteran hiring program. Understandably, duty as a CBP agent or office is not a far cry different from serving in the military in many respects. CPB claims a strong military community culture, preference for veterans, expedited hiring processes (that are about to really be expedited), and jobs that align well with skills gained in the military. Get your resumes ready and watch the CPB website.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.