As part of his effort to boost security along the southern U.S. border, President Donald Trump ordered the hiring of 15,000 new border agents, but to date just 33 agents have come on board, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Further, those three dozen agents have come at a steep price: over $60 million.
In a sign of the difficulties, Customs and Border Protection allocated $60.7 million to Accenture Federal Services, a management consulting firm, as part of a $297-million contract to recruit, vet and hire 7,500 border officers over five years, but the company has produced only 33 new hires so far.
The president’s promised hiring surge steadily lost ground even as he publicly hammered away at the need for stiffer border security, warned of a looming migrant invasion and shut down parts of the government for five weeks over his demands for $5.7 billion from Congress for a border wall.
In 2018, CBP saw a net gain in agents for the first time in five years, as a total of 120 new people were hired — but this was nowhere near CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan’s goal of adding more than 2,700 new agents yearly.
McAleenan said that number is required “to meet Trump’s mandated 26,370 border agents by the end of 2021.”
In March 2017, McAleenan said Customs and Border Protection normally loses about 1,380 agents a year as agents retire, quit for better-paying jobs or move. Just filling that hole each year has strained resources.
The Times reported that there are about 2,000 more vacancies within Customs and Border Protection, of which Border Patrol is a part, than when Trump first took office.
CBP’s contract with Accenture has drawn criticism over its high cost and lackluster results.
CBP officials told the House Homeland Security Committee in November that only 33 new officers had been hired. Under the terms of the contract, the company is paid about $40,000 for each one.
An entry-level Border Patrol agent is paid $52,583 a year.
Apart from the hiring difficulties, the agency has also come under fire for being unable to justify the hiring surge demanded by the president:
In July 2017, six months after Trump signed his executive orders, the Homeland Security inspector general’s office said the agencies were facing “significant challenges” and could not justify the hiring surge.
Officials could not “provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 additional agents and officers they were directed to hire,” the inspector general’s office wrote.