CBP Could Improve Its Estimation of Funding Needed for New Border Patrol Agents

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The U.S. Border Patrol, a component within the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is responsible for patrolling 8,000 miles of the land and coastal borders of the United States to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens and contraband, including terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. To strengthen control of the U.S. borders, CBP increased the number of Border Patrol agents from about 12,300 in September 2006 to 18,875 in April 2009, an unprecedented 53 percent increase in about 2.5 years. ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. June 15, 2009.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The U.S. Border Patrol, a component within the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is responsible for patrolling 8,000 miles of the land and coastal borders of the United States to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens and contraband, including terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. To strengthen control of the U.S. borders, CBP increased the number of Border Patrol agents from about 12,300 in September 2006 to 18,875 in April 2009, an unprecedented 53 percent increase in about 2.5 years. The Border Patrol plans to add additional agents during the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, increasing its onboard strength to about 19,700 agents by the end of September 2009. To support the President's yearly budget request for funding for additional Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) first identifies a list of cost items associated with the recruiting, hiring, training, equipping, and deploying of a new Border Patrol agent. These cost items include, for example, recruiting functions: background checks and medical exams to determine an applicant's fitness for the Border Patrol; salary and benefits; training at the Border Patrol's training academy in Artesia, NM; and equipment such as night-vision goggles, mobile radios, and uniforms. All of these cost items are then added together to arrive at what CBP refers to as the Position Cost Model (PCM), the incremental dollar amount needed to recruit, hire, train, equip, and deploy one additional Border Patrol agent. CBP then multiplies the PCM amount by the number of additional Border Patrol agents CBP expects to hire in a particular fiscal year to estimate the funding needed for these additional agents. This budget estimate is then incorporated into the President's overall budget request for CBP. In total, the PCM used to support the President's 2009 budget request for additional Border Patrol agents contained 93 individual cost items totaling $159,642; that is, CBP estimated it would need $159,642 for each additional agent hired in fiscal year 2009 (see enc. I for a list of all 93 cost items). As a result, for fiscal year 2009 the President requested an additional $362.5 million over the Border Patrol's fiscal year 2008 funding level to increase the Border Patrol agent workforce by 2,200 agents. Of this amount, $351.2 million was generated by the PCM estimate ($159,642 x 2,200) and the remaining $11.3 million was for additional support staff, vehicles, and equipment not included in the PCM estimate. The accuracy of estimates for the individual cost items that constitute the PCM is crucial to CBP developing a reliable budget request for new agents. To assist the Congress in reviewing the Border Patrol's funding for new agents, you asked that we assess the reliability of the estimates generated by the PCM. In prior work we identified best practices for agencies to use in developing cost estimates, which are to be comprehensive (e.g., they are reasonably complete, cover pertinent costs in sufficient detail, and ensure that key cost items are neither omitted nor double-counted), accurate (e.g., calculations are correct; there are few, if any, minor mistakes; estimates are not overly conservative or optimistic; and are adjusted properly for inflation), and well-documented (e.g., all calculations are provided, the assumptions are justified, and supporting sources of data are provided). We have also issued standards for internal control in the federal government that outline requirements for effective management control over program operations. This report addresses the extent to which CBP used best practices and internal controls when developing the PCM cost estimates for the President's fiscal year 2009 CBP budget request."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • June 15, 2009

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. CBP Could Improve Its Estimation of Funding Needed for New Border Patrol Agents, text, June 15, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301270/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.