Customs Border Patrol – Beyond the Hiring Challenge is a Performance Management Problem

CBP talent management, performance and retention challenges

Last year, the administration ordered and the congress mandated the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency to hire 5,000 more agents. That’s quite a challenge for an agency that historically has averaged only 523 new hires a year. Thus, it’s no surprise that the agency is already 2,003 short of the 5,000 new-agent hiring goal.

But this is really the tale of a deeper problem than a mere hiring challenge, summed up by agent and Tucson union chief Art Del Cueto – “It’s an employment crisis. We are losing more agents than we can hire.”


The United States Border Patrol (USBP) is the mobile, uniformed law enforcement arm of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With 21,000 agents, USBP is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States.

According to a GAO report last year, the Border Patrol is losing 905 agents annually. Obviously, retention is a huge problem. Some of the 905 agents are retirements, but many leave for higher pay at other federal agencies, to be in less remote job locations, to avoid polygraph testing and for better training opportunities, among other reasons.

While money, if available, and improved internal processes and procedures could improve retention, other important changes could also help. The Border Patrol has no standardized mechanism or ability to track and monitor the performance and engagement levels of employees. While training — for example, in management-employee communication — it would not provide in-depth insight into the agency’s systemic performance and retention problems.

Certainly, a simple, yet robust performance management system to automate tracking performance and engagement levels of employees would save time for both employees and managers, easing administrative burdens to provide more time for high-priority job duties.

But automation is just the tip of the iceberg of advantages suck a system could provide. With automation in place, the Patrol could easily capture performance and engagement data. This would afford insights into critical questions such as which employees are at risk to leave, why certain agents and teams perform better than others, who are the high and low performers, what are the engagement levels, and others. These insights would greatly augment pay increases and enhanced training opportunities to maximize retention.

At Acendre, we’ve seen and helped solve similar retention problems across the globe for large government agencies and other organizations. Each case has its own unique dynamics, but there are common management concerns fundamental challenges and issues that our technology is designed to highlight and help correct.

If you’d like to learn how we can help your organization improve engagement and retention rates, please contact us.

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