After 6 years, CBP's staffing model for agriculture inspections still not ready
Despite multiple efforts in the past 6 years, Customs and Border Protection has yet to ensure that enough agriculture specialists staff the ports at highest risk for introducing pests and disease, the Government Accountability Office says.
Auditors found in 2006 that CBP did not have a risk-based staffing model for its Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program, which it runs in conjunction with the Agriculture Department. Through the program, specialists at ports of entry inspect passengers and cargo for banned material and foreign pests.
Since 2006, CBP has tried several times to create a risk-based staffing model and determined that it doesn't have sufficient expertise or data to do so, says a GAO report (.pdf) released Oct. 15.
In 2009, the agency hired a contractor to create a staffing model, which it delivered in 2010. But the model--which cost CBP $300,000--failed to include specialized staffing needs, such as ports where unique commodities are inspected.
Having deemed that model inadequate, CBP plans to spend another $300,000 on a contract to revise the model so it does account for specialized needs.
That effort, CBP officials told auditors, is 4 months behind schedule, so the revised staffing model may not be complete by September 2014 as CBP plans.
One official involved in the contracting process told auditors that the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program has little experience with contractors. Officials said the Homeland Security Department's contracting rules have changed since they wrote the 2009 contract, but program officials weren't aware of the changes when they submitted the draft documents for the new contract.
The revised model will probably call for significant staffing increases that the agency can't afford, officials also said. As a result, CBP risks investing in a staffing model it can't execute, GAO says.
But without effective inspections, the agriculture sector may be more vulnerable to foreign pests and diseases. DHS estimates that invasive species cause $136 billion in lost agricultural revenue every year.
- download the report, GAO-12-885 (.pdf)