Before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can hire Donald Trump's requested 15,000 Border Patrol and immigration agents, they have significant hurdles to overcome, according to the department's Office of Inspector General (OIG).
A DHS OIG report released last month found the department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) do not have a plan to identify the number, type and location of agents needed, and therefore cannot validate that the thousands of agents are necessary.
"Why 15,000?" Vidya Mani, assistant professor of supply chain management at Penn State's Smeal College of Business asked.
Mani said it is not as simple as throwing out a number that sounds nice when it comes to the hiring process. In order to have the most efficient hiring process, data needs to be analyzed and a model needs to be constructed to know the needs of the agency.
"Take this context, right. I need to process every illegal alien within two days. Now, that’s something you can actually work with. If you need to do it, what do we need? We need to know what’s the kind of demand, what’s the kind of number of people you’ll be processing within a day, within a week, within a month. So that’s your objective,” Mani said. “From that, build out a model that says if I need to do it, what are the kind of people I require, what shifts, what schedules."
"If they had done that, they wouldn’t be in this kind of problem now because they could have used that same model to fill the positions up," Mani said.
But the inefficient hiring system is not just because of the absence of a workforce model. The report also highlighted a challenging recruitment process, high retention rates and a small supply of human resource staff.
In October 2016, the DHS OIG had already identified that the agency did not have the necessary amount of human resource staff, months before the requested hiring surge.
That same year, DHS's Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer 2016 Accomplishment's Report found that the department's human resource servicing ratio was ranked last among all federal agencies.
According to the report, there was one human resource position for every 148 employees at DHS, compared to the federal average of one human resource staff for every 94 employees.
The ability to recruit and retain good employees has also been difficult for the department. The turnover averages in CBP are 6 percent, while ICE turnovers are slightly better at 4 percent, according to the report.
But the issues do not stop there. CBP’s rigorous hiring requirements, which includes a polygraph test, entrance exam, physical test and interview among other things, has also contributed to the challenges the agency has had in the hiring process.
According to the report, in order to meet the hiring goals set by the executive order, CBP would need to have 750,000 applicants and ICE would need 501,750 applicants.
Circa reached out to DHS for comment, but was told they would not respond beyond what was already said in the report.
"We are working closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) to ensure that its Personnel Requirements Determination model documents current and future staffing levels directed by the President's Executive Order on Border Security, and needed because of emerging operational needs and changes in technology," DHS said in the report.
And according to Mani, if this was a private business, there would likely be a different story.
"Public sector, not that they don’t want to be efficient, but it always seems like it’s somebody else’s money," Mani said.
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