A photograph made available by Customs and Border Protection shows CBP officers in 2014 screening for the Ebola virus at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. EPA/US CBP

There will be no quick fix for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing shortage that has led to long hours of overtime for its officers and long lines for travelers. 

Hiring difficulties have resulted in “more work being handled by fewer staff,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee, said at a hearing Tuesday. She noted CBP’s “ambitious hiring goals…have yet to be realized.  The long entry lines at our land borders and airports are due in part to understaffing of these critical frontline positions.”

That understaffing has led to complaints from CBP officers about having to work 16-hour shifts at times.

CBP Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan cited remote locations, polygraph failures and prior drug use as reasons the agency has trouble filling its ranks. He also promoted CBP efforts to speed its slow hiring process. He pointed to hiring pilot programs “to expedite groups of applicants through the hiring process by compressing multiple process steps in one location over the course of two days.” He said the programs have cut hiring time by over 60 percent in some cases.

Yet, the agency’s inability to hire efficiently has costs beyond overtime and long lines.

A joint statement from the House and Senate Appropriations committees in December said CBP’s failure to hire up to approved budget levels for several years has resulted in “tens of millions of dollars appropriated for personnel compensation and benefits being diverted to unbudgeted activities.”

One group’s rogue is another’s honoree

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has been awarded The National Academy of Public Administration’s (NAPA) Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service.

NAPA honored him last week for “possessing the outstanding public service virtues exemplified” by Richardson, who led four cabinet departments. William D. Ruckelshaus, who was Environmental Protection Agency administrator among other positions, also was honored by NAPA.

In October, however, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and 18 Republican colleagues moved to impeach Koskinen, saying he had “violated the public trust” by a series of failures related to the IRS treatment of conservative political groups.

Going paperless

A group of former Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials are protesting the agency’s decision to go paperless.

A January memo from FWS Deputy Director Steve Guertin says the agency decided to stop printing “newsletters, updates, and other periodic publications in all areas of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”  The purpose is to support “conservation efforts by eliminating waste, increasing recycling, and preventing pollution by reducing paper use.”

He added that “this will provide cost savings and faster communications more in line with today’s use of social media.”

But seven former FWS officials want the decision reversed. Their letter to the agency says the new policy conflicts with equality of service and relies on false economies.

“An immediate and across-the-board suspension of printed communications ignores large sectors of the American public who, for a variety of reasons, consume information from their government in traditional ways — seniors and the elderly; minority, non-English-speaking, and economically-disadvantaged citizens without sustained access to expensive technology; and rural Americans with limited or non-existent broadband capabilities,” they wrote.

“In its quest to appeal to the sensibilities of urban and economically advantaged millennials,” their letter said, “the agency is turning its back” on large segments of the public who don’t use social media.

On false economies, the former officials said as the use of printed materials have declined “expenditures on information technology and software, costly and rapidly out-dated electronic platforms, and the IT staffing necessary to underwrite such endeavors have increased logarithmically.”

Note to readers regarding the Federal Diary:

There were some eventful happenings in 1932.

Radio City Music Hall opened. The infamous federal “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” began. Little Richard and Elizabeth Taylor were born.

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Read more:

[Slow hiring can mean long overtime for customs officers]

[House Republicans, in last-ditch effort, move to impeach IRS commissioner over targeting scandal]