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  4. Written testimony of CBP for a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Immigration and Customs Enforcement & Customs and Border Protection FY18 Budget Request”

Written testimony of CBP U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla Provost and CBP Office of Field Operations Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner for a House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Immigration and Customs Enforcement & Customs and Border Protection FY18 Budget Request”

Release Date: June 13, 2017

2008 Rayburn House Office Building

Chairman Carter, Ranking Member Roybal-Allard, Members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to appear before you today. As America’s unified border agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) protects the United States from terrorist threats and prevents the illegal entry of inadmissible persons and contraband, while facilitating lawful travel and trade. CBP works tirelessly to detect illicit trafficking of people, drugs, weapons, and money, while facilitating the flow of cross-border commerce and tourism. The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget includes $13.9 billion to help enable CBP to achieve our complex mission with the right combination of talented and dedicated personnel, intelligence-driven and risk-based strategies, collaborative partnerships, and advanced technology.

The border environment in which CBP works is dynamic and requires continual adaptation to respond to emerging threats and rapidly changing conditions. We are proud of CBP’s dedicated men and women, who have advanced CBP’s situational awareness of the border environment, and who continue to meet these challenges with integrity and commitment.

Two years ago CBP announced the CBP Vision and Strategy 2020, CBP’s first comprehensive strategic plan for our agency in nearly a decade. The plan acknowledges the complexity of the CBP mission in an increasingly challenging border environment and provides a roadmap for the way forward by focusing efforts on collaboration, innovation, and integration in meeting our mission goals to:

  • combat terrorism and transnational crime;
  • advance comprehensive border security and border management;
  • enhance U.S. economic competitiveness by enabling trade and travel; and
  • promote organizational integration, innovation, and agility.

The last mission goal listed above – promote organizational integration, innovation, and agility – has led us over the last year to make many changes and much progress as we restructure our fiscal, operational, and institutional management to better align our resources with our missions.

To promote organizational efficiencies within CBP, it was announced two years ago that CBP would realign the agency’s headquarters structure to better support our personnel in fulfilling CBP’s critical mission. These changes emphasize the delegation of authority, more defined and accountable decision-making, and improved span of control for management. While CBP’s operational offices – Office of Field Operations (OFO), U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), Air and Marine Operations (AMO), and the Office of Trade (OT) – remain as key Offices within CBP, the new structure identifies and addresses the strengths and weaknesses of our most critical infrastructure, and supports working towards integrated and comprehensive solutions to issues and challenges. We measure the success of this effort by our ability to support the front lines – our ability to identify requirements and to manage resources effectively. CBP’s realignment is allowing us to streamline process flows and create efficiencies for the agency.

Implementing the President’s Executive Orders

As President Trump has stated, “Homeland Security is in the business of saving lives, and that mandate will guide our actions.” Through a series of Executive Orders (EOs), the President has taken steps to enhance border security, promote public safety, minimize the threat of terrorist attacks by foreign nationals, and protect American workers from unfair foreign competition. The FY 2018 Budget proposes significant investments to support all of those goals while implementing the EOs.

In January, the President signed the Executive Order entitled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (EO 13767). Included in the Budget is a total of $2.6 billion in enhancements in high-priority border security technology, tactical infrastructure, assets, and equipment, including $1.6 billion for a border wall system and support infrastructure and personnel; $975 million for border security technology, assets, and equipment. Additionally, the Budget provides $100 million to hire 500 additional Border Patrol Agents (BPA), the initial hiring surge for the 5,000 additional agents required by this EO.

The Budget also includes $55 million to help CBP implement initiatives directed by EO 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, specifically to improve intelligence and targeting capabilities related to the screening and vetting of immigration populations and international travelers, in accordance with Section 5 of the EO.1 These resources will also support the efforts related to EO 13767.

Finally, the Budget includes $30 million to help CBP meet the legislative mandates to implement the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA), as well as the Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits called for by EO 13786.


Securing America’s Borders

Along the more than 5,000 miles of border with Canada; 1,900 miles of border with Mexico; and approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline, CBP is responsible for preventing the illegal entry of people and contraband at and between the Ports of Entry (POEs). CBP’s USBP and AMO agents patrol our Nation’s borders and associated airspace and maritime approaches to prevent illegal entry of people and goods into the United States. CBP officers (CBPOs) and agriculture specialists (CBPAS) are multi-disciplined and perform the full range of inspection, intelligence analysis, examination, and law enforcement activities relating to the arrival and departure of persons, conveyances, and merchandise at air, land, and sea POEs.

EO 13767 directs executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s Southern border, prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and repatriate aliens with final orders of removal swiftly, consistently, and humanely. EO 13767 also establishes the foundation for securing our Southern border by directing the tools, resources, and policy goals for CBP’s dedicated men and women who are responsible for preventing illegal immigration, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. In accordance with existing law, CBP has already begun to take all appropriate steps to plan, design, and construct a physical wall, using the materials and technology that will most effectively achieve operational control of the Southern border.

The FY 2018 Budget provides $1.6 billion for 32 miles of new border wall system and 28 miles of new levee wall in Rio Grande Valley Sector, as well as 14 miles of secondary border wall system in San Diego Sector. Tactical infrastructure, including physical barriers, has long been a critical component of CBP’s multi-layered and risk-based approach to securing our Southern border. It is undeniable that border barriers have enhanced – and will continue to enhance – CBP’s operational capabilities by creating persistent impedance, and facilitating the deterrence and prevention of successful illegal entries. CBP plans to deploy border wall system in a multi-phased approach that meets USBP’s operational requirements, safeguards national security and public safety, and is the result of thorough analysis of threat, cost, and mission effectiveness.

The land along the border between the United States and Mexico is extremely diverse, consisting of desert landscape, mountainous terrain, and urban areas. Today we have several types of barriers, to include steel bollard and levee wall, along nearly one-third, or 654 miles, of the Southwest border.

CBP is prioritizing investments and geographic areas across the Southwest border, leveraging the USBP’s annual, full spectrum requirements analysis process to identify needs related to domain awareness, impedance and denial, access and mobility, and mission readiness. Throughout the planning, designing, and construction process, CBP will complete project, budget, real estate, and environmental planning to ensure available resource capacity. CBP will leverage expertise in federal acquisition to maximize transparency and accountability and to ensure the most effective and efficient solutions are deployed to meet requirements, in accordance with the established DHS acquisition framework and acquisition review board oversight.

CBP is seeking to build on the successes of and lessons learned from the installation and operation of existing barriers to deploy a system that addresses dynamic cross-border threats. CBP is working with industry and partnering with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to potentially incorporate additional alternative barrier designs that may include a concrete base or other innovative solutions into our border barrier toolkit. Border barrier and levee wall systems are comprehensive solutions that include a concentrated combination of various types of infrastructure such as wall, fence, all-weather roads, lighting, enforcement cameras, and other related technology. The strategic deployment of these capabilities along the border will provide USBP’s frontline agents with the tools they need to deter and prevent successful illegal entries.

CBP is committed to ensuring that all stakeholder communities, to include Congress, federal partners, state, local, and tribal officials, and the impacted communities, are informed throughout this process.

Response to Migrant Surges

Thanks to this Subcommittee’s support, the Nation’s long-term investment in border security has produced significant and positive results. With the support and direction of President Trump and Secretary Kelly, we are already seeing an unprecedented improvement in the posture of our Southwest border. Since January 2017, the number of illegal aliens we have apprehended on the Southwest border has drastically decreased, indicating a significant decrease in the number of aliens attempting to illegally enter the country. The number of illegal aliens apprehended in April 2017 was more than 60 percent lower than January apprehensions and close to 70 percent lower than the same time last year.2

During FY 2016, over 415,816 illegal aliens from Central America and Mexico – including over 137,614 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) and alien families – were apprehended along our Southwest border. While more than 16,000 family units were apprehended at the border in December of 2016, only 1,119 family units were apprehended in April of 2017.3

Although the numbers have recently declined, UAC and other immigrant flows are difficult to predict and another surge is always a possibility. The simple fact is that now is the time to make further, substantial improvements to our southwest border security, as these could be fleeting improvements if the perception of our southern border security returns to what it was before January 2017. We must remain prepared for apprehension numbers to climb again as quickly as they have fallen.

Investments in Mobile Tactical Equipment

CBP’s border security mission regularly requires BPAs and CBPOs to operate in diverse and remote locations where tactical communication, transportation, and surveillance capabilities are essential to coordinating mission activities and protecting the safety of CBP law enforcement personnel. For agents and officers operating in remote areas, their radios are often their only means of communication to coordinate activities or request assistance. For USBP, radios are the single most essential piece of equipment for frontline agents – a BPA may not deploy to the field without a functioning radio.

CBP operates and maintains a tactical radio inventory of more than 70,000 units, utilized by CBP’s frontline law enforcement personnel. More than 25,000 units of CBP’s radio inventory have exceeded their useful life and are no longer supported by the manufacturer. The FY 2018 Budget seeks $29.3 million to purchase the equipment for USBP and AMO Tactical Air Land and Marine Enterprise Communications (TALMEC), including the acquisition of modern and secure radio and satellite communication technology that will provide communication reliability and security for CBP frontline law enforcement and flexibility for agents and officers to communicate with state and local law enforcement agencies as well as Mexican authorities.

The FY 2018 Budget includes $60.3 million to provide for the acquisition of vehicles. CBP’s vehicle lifecycle management process4 is especially important as vehicles become older and less reliable, while mission demands continue. Reductions in vehicle performance and/or reliability may place an undue burden on law enforcement personnel executing mission requirements. These investments, to include recapitalizing aging radios and vehicles, will enable agents to respond to and resolve incidents and incursions more efficiently, effectively and safely.

Technology Investments between Ports of Entry

The FY 2018 Budget will also enable the continued deployment of proven, effective technology to strengthen border security operations between the ports – in the land, air, and maritime environments. With the deployment of fixed and mobile surveillance capabilities, CBP can gain situational awareness remotely, direct a response team to the best interdiction location, and warn them of any additional danger otherwise unknown along the way. Investment in this area will support CBP’s efforts to implement the President’s EOs on border security and to maintain operational control of the Southern border through improved situational awareness.

CBP’s Tactical Aerostats and Re-locatable Towers Program, originally part of the Department of Defense (DOD) Re-use program, uses a mix of aerostats, towers, cameras, and radars to provide USBP with advanced surveillance capabilities over a wide area. This technology has proven to be a vital asset in increasing CBP’s ability to detect, identify, classify, and track illegal activity. Furthermore, since initial deployment, these systems have been responsible for the detection of more than 180,000 illegal border incursions of aliens and smugglers, leading to the seizure of approximately 180 tons of narcotics and related contraband headed towards our Nation’s cities and neighborhoods. As of April 2017, USBP agents, with the assistance of existing aerostats and re-locatable towers, have seized 62 tons of narcotics, and caught more than 20,000 illegal border crossers detected in aerostat locations during FY 2017. The FY 2018 Budget includes $34.8 million in FY 2018 for the Tactical Aerostats and Re-locatable Towers Program to fund continued operations and maintenance costs.

Another proven border security technology, Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT), assists BPAs in detecting, tracking, identifying, and classifying items of interest along our Nation’s borders through a series of fixed surveillance towers and equipment that display information on workstations in command and control centers. CBP requires $22.4 million in FY 2018 for the IFT program for operations and maintenance. In addition, CBP proposes $17.4 million in FY 2018 for procurement, construction, and improvements towards the IFT program.

Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) are another fixed technology asset used in select areas along the Southwest and Northern borders. These systems provide short-, medium-, and long-range persistent surveillance mounted on stand-alone towers, or other structures. The RVSS uses cameras, radio, and transmitters to send video to a control room. This enables a control room operator to remotely detect, identify, classify and track targets using the video feed. The RVSS deployment planned as part of the Arizona Technology Plan is now complete, and CBP is presently working to expand the RVSS capability to other high-priority areas along the Southwest border. The FY 2018 Budget includes $20.0 million in FY 2018 to sustain RVSS. An additional $46.2 million is provided for procurement, construction, and improvements. This funding will be used to support the deployment of the RVSS capability to the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

Mobile Video Surveillance Systems (MVSS) consist of short- and medium-range mobile surveillance equipment that is mounted on USBP vehicles. An agent deploys with the system, which helps agents detect, track, identify, and classify items of interest using the MVSS video feed. The agent observes activity on the video monitors to detect intrusions and assist other agents in responding to those intrusions. The FY 2018 Budget includes $3.2 million to provide operation and sustainment for MVSS, and an additional $1.6 million for procurement, construction, and improvements to fulfill operational needs on the Southern and Northern borders.

As we continue to deploy border surveillance technology and other operational assets, particularly along the Southwest border, the Subcommittee’s support of these investments allows CBP the flexibility to shift more frontline personnel from detection duties to interdiction of illegal activities on our borders. The FY 2018 budget supports CBP’s border security mission by increasing and enhancing border security technology including mobile assets, air and marine capabilities, and initiatives to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

2 Per https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration
3 Per https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration
4 The General Services Administration’s recommended vehicle replacement standard is five years.


Securing and Expediting Trade and Travel

At our Nation’s 328 land, air, and sea POEs, CBP prevents dangerous people and contraband from entering the United States, while facilitating the lawful flow of international trade and travel by using a combination of personnel, technology, intelligence, risk information, targeting, and international cooperation. CBP extends the U.S. zone of security beyond our physical borders through bilateral cooperation with other nations, private-sector partnerships, expanded targeting, and advance scrutiny of information on people and goods seeking to enter this country.

CBP’s travel and trade security operations use a risk-based approach, applying rigorous information analysis and targeting to identify the greatest threats and risks. CBP proposes an increase of $54.9 million in FY 2018 for improved intelligence and targeting capabilities, including an increase of $14.5 million to expand staffing at CBP’s National Targeting Center (NTC). This increase will also enhance NTC analytical modeling capabilities and provide for additional equipment. The NTC operates 24 hours a day with the mission of collaborating with federal, state, local, and international partners to effectively identify, target, screen, and interdict inbound and outbound passengers and cargo across all international modes of transportation that pose a threat to national security, public safety, agriculture, lawful trade, and safe travel. Effective targeting and interdiction prevents inadmissible high-risk passengers, cargo, and agriculture / bioterrorism threats from reaching U.S. POEs, thereby extending our border security initiatives outward and making our borders the last line of defense rather than the first line of defense.

The FY 2018 Budget continues substantial investment in Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology that enables CBP to detect materials that pose significant nuclear and radiological threat. Utilizing Radiation Portal Monitors (RPMs), as well as Radiation Isotope Identification Devices, and Personal Radiation Detectors, which are deployed nationwide at our POEs, CBP is able to scan 100 percent of all mail and express consignment mail and parcels; 100 percent of all truck cargo and personally owned vehicles arriving from Canada and Mexico; and nearly 100 percent of all arriving maritime containerized cargo for the presence of radiological or nuclear materials.

Using NII imaging equipment, CBPOs can also examine cargo conveyances such as sea containers, commercial trucks, and rail cars, as well as privately owned vehicles, for the presence of contraband without physically opening or unloading them. NII technologies – both radiological detection and imaging – are force multipliers that enable CBP to screen or examine a larger portion of the stream of commercial traffic while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade, cargo, and passengers.

In FY 2016, CBP utilized more than 300 large-scale (LS) NII systems to image approximately 6.5 million cargo or conveyances across CBP’s 328 land, sea, and air POEs, resulting in CBPOs seizing more than 355,000 pounds of narcotics and more than $3.9 million in U.S. currency. More than 8,000 additional officers at a labor cost of approximately $1 billion would have been required if physical examinations were conducted. The Budget proposes $109.2 million to build upon prior year investments and will be used to recapitalize the current small-scale (SS) and LS NII technology fleet. This funding will allow CBP to remain on track to ensure the NII fleet is operating within its service life by FY 2024, and will help CBP continue to use NII to safely, quickly, and effectively detect a wide range of contraband imported using a variety of conveyances, thereby facilitating lawful trade and travel.

As mentioned above, another key role played by CBP in securing our borders is the interdiction of narcotics. In FY 2016, CBPOs and BPAs seized and/or disrupted more than 3.3 million pounds of narcotics across the country5 including approximately 46,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 4,800 pounds of heroin. CBP heroin seizures by weight rose 43 percent from approximately 4,217 pounds in FY 2012 to approximately 5,981 pounds in FY 2015. The majority of heroin seizures occur at the Southwest border: 82 percent of all CBP heroin seizures between FYs 2012-2016. CBP seizures of fentanyl remain relatively small compared to heroin, but have significantly increased over the past three years, from approximately two pounds seized in FY 2013 to approximately 440 pounds seized in FY 2016. Fentanyl is the most frequently seized illicit synthetic opioid, but CBP has also encountered various types of fentanyl analogues.6

CBP seizures of cocaine have remained steady between FYs 2012-2016 averaging approximately 200,000 pounds of cocaine seized each fiscal year. By funding the right mix of people, technology, and infrastructure, the FY 2018 Budget will help CBP continue to work to secure our borders and keep illegal narcotics out of the hands of the American people.

CBP also has the responsibility to enhance the Nation’s economic competitiveness and security by efficiently and effectively processing goods and people across our borders. This is crucial to promoting job growth and helping the private sector remain globally competitive today and in the future. The FY 2018 Budget includes $263.3 million for OT to support CBP’s implementation of TFTEA; implement the President’s EO 13785, Establishing Enhanced Collection and Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties and Violations of Trade and Customs Laws; and meet other needs to fulfill our trade mission outlined below.

CBP proposes an increase of $29.8 million to support 140 new positions to provide for new services mandated by TFTEA, which was enacted on February 24, 2016. The law specifies new trade facilitation and enforcement operational requirements, organizational changes, and new authorities and services. One of the most impactful pieces of trade legislation for CBP in more than a generation, TFTEA includes substantial changes to trade enforcement, particularly in the area of Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duties; establishing processes for investigating claims of evasion of anti-dumping orders; using donations of technology from the private sector for enforcing intellectual property rights; and simplifying drawback processing to spur domestic manufacturing and exports.

Another substantial mandate within TFTEA is the Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA), which allows a party to submit an allegation of dumping circumvention to CBP, and grants CBP new authorities to make adverse decisions against an importer based on the lack of response or an incomplete response to an inquiry. CBP is mandated to initiate and pursue EAPA allegations within certain timeframes, and demand for these services is growing despite the lack of necessary staffing. There are many other substantial mandates which CBP must implement. These 140 new positions will enable OT to fully address TFTEA mandates in both a timely manner and without impacting the core mission and operations of CBP’s trade mission.

Also with the strong support of this Subcommittee, CBP is completing the development of core trade processing capabilities in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). ACE is the “Single Window” through which all import and export data are reported by industry to more than 47 partner government agencies, eliminating more than 200 different forms and streamlining trade processes. In FY 2018 ACE will transition from development to sustainment. To facilitate this transition CBP proposes an increase of $45.1 million in FY 2018 for ACE Core Functionality. This includes $9.1 million for software sustainment; $12.2 million to provide ACE disaster recovery to ensure continuity of operations through the use of a robust “cloud solution”; $11.3 million to decommission code currently on legacy ACE; and $12.5 million to International Business Machines (IBM) SRO, which provides infrastructure, software, and management support critical to the continued operation and maintenance of the ACE system.

CBP recognizes how critical our trade enforcement and facilitation role is in protecting our Nation’s economic security. We are working to ensure a fair and competitive trade environment where the benefits of trade compliance exceed the costly consequences of violating U.S. trade law. In FY 2016, we supported domestic producers of products ranging from steel plates to solar panels to crawfish by collecting $1.5 billion in cash deposits to secure anti-dumping duties on $14 billion of imported goods. We continually seek to develop and implement ways to improve our business processes and strengthen our engagement with our international and private-sector partners. To this end, CBP proposes $2.3 million in FY 2018 to expand trade transformation initiatives, including professional development initiatives and enhancing trade enforcement programs. Sharpening Trade Expertise is an enterprise-wide professional development initiative dedicated to strengthening the expertise of all employees engaged in the trade mission. Through targeted development and training programs, Sharpening Trade Expertise provides CBP trade staff with the support, engagement, and preparation needed for an ever-changing trade environment future.

5 FY 2016 Border Security Report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/cbp-border-security-report-fy2016
6 These include: acetylfentanyl, butyrylfentanyl, beta-hydroxythiofentanyl, para-fluorobutyrylfentanyl, pentanoylfentanyl, alpha-methyl acetylfentanyl, para-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, para-fluorofentanyl, carfentanil, furanylfentanyl, and most recently benzodioxolefentanyl, acrylfentanyl, and methoxyacetylfentanyl.


Integrated Operations

We have been a key participant in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Unity of Effort initiative, which aims to change the way DHS makes decisions within the Department and conducts operations. As part of this initiative, CBP is the lead component for DHS Joint Task Force-West (JTF-W), and a participating component in JTF-East, led by the U.S. Coast Guard and JTF-Investigations, led by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The JTFs, launched as a pilot by DHS in early 2015, are strategically guided by the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan, which enhances the Department’s operational approach to addressing comprehensive threat environments in a unified, integrated way. The FY 2018 Budget also realigns funding for 32 positions and $6.2 million to JTF-W to better address the threats posed by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) to the safety and security of the United States. This funding will help ensure these unique collaborative efforts have the resources they need.

CBP has also been an active participant in the Joint Requirements Council. The Council consists of senior leaders from DHS components, and is organized in order to identify and recommend investments to maximize efficiency and enhance mission capabilities.

CBP’s commitment to risk-based, intelligence-driven operations enables us to focus resources on a wide array of diverse threats ranging from networks of terrorism and transnational crime to individuals attempting illegal entry; from the illicit movement of weapons to the introduction of agricultural pests and diseases; from trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people to the transit of prohibited, restricted, and unsafe goods. CBP’s application of risk management principles has enabled sound, timely operational planning and focused tactical execution against these diverse threats. CBP will continue to evolve our integrated risk management approach to remain agile and adaptable in supporting operational priorities.

The FY 2018 Budget supports an increase of $3.1 million to fill 40 positions with the expertise needed to expand CBP’s Office of Intelligence’s (OI) mission critical operational capabilities and to align priorities with CBP’s intelligence enterprise. The additional positions will augment the existing staff to support OI’s ability to provide products on current threats, initiatives, and intelligence. Additionally, this support would enable CBP to develop agency-wide depth of knowledge aligned with Intelligence Community functions, including Counter-Intelligence, Confidential Human Source, Security, and Training.

The FY 2018 Budget provides $1.4 million for OI’s training division, $900,000 for salaries and benefits and $500,000 to fund Interagency Agreements and contractor support for delivery of content in various intelligence disciplines as well as travel associated with classes scheduled at field locations and at the Intelligence and Targeting Center of Excellence (ITCE) at the CBP Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The funding will support the maintenance of a self-sustaining and cost effective curriculum design and instruction team that will be able to meet the intelligence training requirements of the CBP workforce from all operational component offices in an effective and timely manner.

The FY 2018 Budget also calls for investments in air and marine capabilities to help AMO meet flight hour goals and readiness rates. CBP’s comprehensive border security operations include the use of coordinated and integrated air and marine capabilities to detect, interdict, and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs, and other contraband toward or across the borders of the United States. During FY 2016, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations contributed to 4,303 arrests and the apprehension of 55,923 individuals, as well as the interdiction of 221,707 pounds of cocaine in the transit zone. AMO increases CBP’s situational awareness, enhances our detection and interdiction capabilities, and extends our border security zones, offering greater capacity to stop threats prior to reaching the Nation’s borders. These assets provide multi-domain awareness for our partners across DHS, as well as critical aerial and maritime surveillance, interdiction, and operational assistance to our ground personnel.

CBP’s layered approach to border security relies on a variety of resources, including fixed wing, rotary, and unmanned aircraft systems in the air domain, and patrol and interdiction vessels in the maritime environment. These assets provide critical aerial and maritime surveillance, interdiction, and operational assistance to our ground personnel and multi-domain awareness for DHS.

The FY 2018 Budget seeks an increase of $23.2 million to fund the initial hiring of 94 additional AMO personnel, to include 61 Air Interdiction Agents and 33 support personnel. This request will support implementation of the President’s EOs on border security and the Secretary’s subsequent February 20, 2017 memo, “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies.” This increase is required to facilitate the increased operational tempo required to gain operational control of the Southern border. The positions are required to directly support the increased USBP and ICE agents provided in the Budget.

The FY 2018 Budget also seeks significant investments in our aircraft fleet. For example, the Budget includes $55.5 million in FY 2018 to purchase two KA-350CER multirole enforcement aircraft (MEA). The MEA is the optimal sensor-equipped aircraft for surveillance operations in regions such as the Southern border, Northern border, and maritime environments where terrain, weather and distance pose significant obstacles to border security operations. The MEA further serve as a force multiplier for law enforcement and emergency response personnel, facilitating the rapid-response deployment of equipment, canines and people.

The Budget includes $14.1 million in FY 2018 to purchase one UH-60 Medium Lift Helicopter (MLH). UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are critical to border security operations, being the only helicopters with medium lift capability (8 agents with full gear). The UH-60 are rugged enough to support interdiction and life-saving operations in very hostile environments, and at high altitudes in the dessert, over open water, and in extreme cold.

The FY 2018 Budget also includes $43.4 million to purchase Light Enforcement Helicopters (LEH) in FY 2018. The LEH is a multi-mission helicopter used for aerial surveillance; providing tactical support; the transport and insertion of frontline personnel responding to illegal border incursions; serving search and arrest warrants; and patrol of high risk areas. These aircraft will help CBP carry out the President’s EOs on border security, and enhance the physical security of our Northern, Southern, and maritime borders by providing improved air surveillance and support capabilities to USBP and our law enforcement partners.

The FY 2018 Budget includes $18.1 million to fund the transition to AMO’s new national maintenance contracts and improve the availability of critical aircraft systems and engines and flight hour increases associated with operation of new and upgraded aircraft. This includes $4.2 million to transition from the current national maintenance contract to a follow-on contract; $7.1 million to address safety, parts, and labor shortfalls; $5 million to increase maintenance for certain critical aircraft systems and engines; and $1.8 million for the operational tempo increases associated with newly delivered Medium Lift Helicopter and Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft.

The FY 2018 Budget also proposes an increase of $2.5 million for the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) program. USBP requires a SUAS capability that can surveil locations between the POEs in remote, isolated, and inaccessible portions of the Nation’s borders based on risk-based operational needs. The SUAS needs to provide ground reconnaissance, surveillance and tracking capabilities to support the USBP surveillance tasks of predicting, detecting, tracking, identifying and classifying suspected items of interest. The ability to persistently and discreetly surveil remote areas along portions of the border is critical to USBP’s ability to secure the border.

Additionally, the FY 2018 Budget provides support for the Tethered Aerostat Radar System program. The $41.2 million requested will provide for the annual system operations, system upkeep, maintenance and supply of government personnel, and real property needs such as site and facility leases and expenses, for the full program. This funding will sustain the steady-state operations of the system while also retiring major threats from technical and program risks to system operations and health stemming from aging technology, diminishing manufacturing sources, and emerging regulatory requirements.

As physical barriers are erected, the various threats will inevitably adapt. Thus, the FY 2018 Budget also includes $8.9 million for the Cross Border Tunnel Threat (CBTT) program. The CBTT program will strengthen border security effectiveness between POEs by diminishing the ability of TCOs to gain access into the United States through cross-border tunnels and the illicit use of underground municipal infrastructure. The CBTT program will acquire technologies and services that will close capability gaps, reducing the ability of TCOs to smuggle drugs, money, and people across the border. The CBTT program will invest in system procurement, including testing and evaluation, IT security, and engineering change proposals. These systems will help CBP predict potential tunnel locations; detect the presence of suspected tunnels and tunneling activities as well as project the trajectory of a discovered tunnel; confirm a tunnel’s existence and location through mapping and measurements; and facilitate secure information sharing across all stakeholders.

Mission Support

The FY 2018 Budget funds an increase of $100 million to begin hiring the 5,000 additional BPAs mandated by EO 13767 and supports the hiring of an additional 500 agents from current staffing levels. This initial hiring surge develops the foundation to increase operational control in certain key areas along the border.

The Budget also includes an increase of $17.5 million to support efforts to continue and expand process improvements and add capacity to frontline hiring by focusing on efforts to attract qualified candidates and expedite their progress through the CBP hiring process. These improvements include $2.2 million for recruiting and marketing strategies, $8.0 million for our Hiring Transformation / Hubs program, and $7.3 million for additional applicant processing. This funding supports the hiring activities that meet the objectives and intent of the EOs on border security, and is based on a multiyear hiring plan.

In pursuit of our hiring goals, CBP recruiters will participate in thousands of recruiting events, seeking to reach a diverse spectrum of applicants. We have developed a significant expertise identifying events and communications strategies that support implementation of our recruitment and marketing strategy. Recruitment at events for veterans and transitioning military personnel is a top priority. CBP will further refine data analysis techniques to identify and quantify the best opportunities for recruitment success, and continue to leverage online hiring services as a low-cost means of identifying and reaching a wider pool of qualified applicants.

CBP’s new frontline hiring process has led to significant reductions in the average time-to-hire- from 469 days in January 2016 to March 2017’s average time-to-hire of fewer than 300 days. Indeed, many successful applicants are now able to move through the hiring process in approximately 160 days. Funding will provide the increase in contract services, and technology needed to continue this transformational effort and expand the new process across the entire frontline position applicant pool. As of April 2017 HRM is now processing all applicants through an expedited hiring model. We have made significant progress in reducing the time to hire.

CBP is also actively working to minimize attrition and fill positions in less desirable locations. The FY 2018 Budget includes $30 million to support operational mobility, developmental assignments, and leadership relocations. Implementing a stable relocation program for the CBP workforce will help meet operational requirements and help to alleviate the lack of mobility significantly contributing to increased attrition across the workforce. CBP is thankful for the continued dedication of Members of Congress to working collaboratively with CBP to come up with solutions to this complicated challenge.

Congress has directed the Department to evaluate ways to improve the statutorily required polygraph program to improve the efficiency of the hiring process. Per the Congressional directive from the Explanatory Statement accompanying the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act concerning the alternative polygraph trial, CBP has also established a six-month pilot program that will allow the agency to establish a sample of applicant testing that can be measured against comparable data points from the previous test. This pilot was developed in collaboration with the National Center for Credibility Assessment which governs all federal polygraph programs.

Before making any determination to either continue with the piloted test or return to the previous test, CBP will carefully evaluate these metrics and measures to ensure CBP maintains its high standard of integrity for future applicants, and report to Congress per the directive. While the exam is a change in format, it retains all of the critical test topics of the previous exam and maintains CBP’s commitment to high integrity standards for its personnel. CBP and the Department support the “Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act of 2017,” which was ordered reported as S. 595 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 17, 2017, and reported as H.R. 2213 by the House Homeland Security Committee on May 16, 2017. We thank the Members of Congress for your continued support as we seek to hire the men and women who will fulfill CBP’s complex and crucial mission in the months and years to come.

Legislative Proposals

Finally, the FY 2018 Budget highlights some of the legislative priorities we hope to achieve with the help of Congress. For example, the Administration will submit legislative language to the relevant authorizing committees to enact the proposal to eliminate Brand USA and redirect the $10 Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) surcharges to CBP for passenger processing expenses. CBP has also submitted a legislative proposal to create an $8 Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) user fee based on a fee analysis that would function similarly to the ESTA operational processing fee. Once the authorizing proposal is enacted, CBP will no longer require appropriated funding to support the EVUS program.

CBP will also provide a legislative proposal to decrease the shortfall between the costs of CBP’s immigration inspection activities and the collections received. Per the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), passenger inspection fee collections fund customs inspection activities that are mandated by law. The fee levels set in current law do not fully cover CBP’s costs. CBP’s funding strategies also include seeking Congressional support for a legislative proposal to increase current Immigration Inspection User Fees to recover more of the costs associated with providing immigration inspection services.


In closing, the challenges facing CBP and our Nation are considerable, but we have outstanding men and women working at CBP who are committed to protecting our Homeland and the American people. The FY 2018 President’s Budget recognizes the serious and evolving threats and dangers our Nation faces each day. With the support of Congress, CBP continues to secure our Nation’s borders, and promote international commerce and tourism, through a multi-layered approach using a variety of tools.

We want to thank the Members of this Subcommittee for your continued strong support of CBP. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We look forward to your questions.

Last Updated: 10/06/2022
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