Cutting its losses, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ended its $297 million contract with a hiring company that wasn’t delivering needed personnel to the chronically understaffed agency.
The move came four months after government auditors blasted CBP’s arrangement with Accenture. According to the five-year contract signed in November 2017, Accenture was to assist in hiring 7,500 CBP officers. One year on, Accenture was nowhere close to hitting that target.
CBP paid the company $19 million in start-up costs, and some $2 million for 58 people who got job offers. The agency also has another $39 million left to “settle and close the books” with Accenture, whose corporate motto is “using threats to grow resilience.”
The Border Patrol had 19,437 agents in fiscal year 2017, nearly 2,000 short of the congressionally mandated minimum of 21,370. It was the lowest level since the final year of the George W. Bush administration, when 17,499 agents were on board.
Despite the Accenture arrangement – or because of it – CBP’s staffing situation didn’t improve in 2018. Acknowledging persistent vacancies and high turnover as the “tip of the spear” agency faces an onslaught of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, new CBP chief operating officer John Sanders says progress is now being made.
“Five years ago, it was taking 400 days to hire. Now it’s 270,” he told a Border Security conference last month. “For the first time, we are hiring more than are leaving.”
Sanders expects further improvement. “Really good people don’t want to wait 270 days,” Sanders noted.
Preston Huennekens, at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Accenture “was clearly incapable of completing the work CBP contracted it to do.”
“CBP should move forward immediately to award this important contract to a competent competitor, or do the work of hiring agents itself. Ideally, it won’t lose tens of millions doing so,” he said.