U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to hire an additional 2,000 officers to help reduce wait times and improve efficiency at 44 ports of entry in 18 states.
The new officers will be assigned to airports, seaports and border crossings in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Houston, Detroit and New Orleans. The agency hopes to have the additional officers hired and in place by the end of fiscal year 2015.
In a statement, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said the U.S. labor force potentially can gain more than 1,000 jobs for every 33 officers hired.
“These measures are a significant down payment and a wise investment in our airports, seaports and land border crossings that will pay dividends for the nation’s economy,” Kerlikowske said.
Customs and Border Protection’s nearly 22,000 officers are tasked with securing the nation’s 329 border crossings, seaports and airports. CBP officers check arriving passengers and cargo to ensure that no dangerous individuals or goods enter the country, and that all travelers and shipments comply with all applicable laws. In fiscal year 2013, CBP processed more than 362 million passengers, nearly 25 million cargo containers and about $2.38 trillion in trade.
According to the Department of Commerce, the rate of travel into the United States will increase by about 4% over the next few years, resulting in an additional 17 million visitors over 2012 totals. In written testimony submitted to the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Kerlikowske said CBP saw a record 102 million air travelers in fiscal year 2013, a 16% increase over 2009. The number of air arrivals is expected to top 110 million in the next two years, he said, illustrating the need for additional personnel.
Industry groups welcomed the news that more officers would be hired.
“With international traffic on the rise, an increase in CBP staffing along with continued focus on processing efficiencies could not have come at a more critical time for U.S. airports,” Kevin M. Burke, president of the Airports Council International-North America, said in a statement.
Minimum requirements for CBP officers include U.S. citizenship and successful completion of a background investigation, medical exam, fitness test and drug screening. A bachelor’s degree satisfies the educational requirements for employment.
Candidates must be referred for selection before age 37 and must have lived in the United States for the three years immediately prior to their application. Exceptions to the residency requirement are made for individuals who worked overseas for the U.S. government and for dependents of federal employees who worked overseas.
Upon hiring, new officers receive 15 weeks of paid training at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Academy in Glynco, Ga. Training includes classroom time and hands-on sessions on firearms and advanced-technology inspection techniques.