Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Ron Barber have introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3463, to reform the Border Patrol Agent pay system. The plan is expected to save up to $1 billion over 10 years.
The legislation addresses Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime or AUO – the overtime component within the Border Patrol pay system that was established almost 40 years ago. AUO has been a frequent target in budget negotiations, leaving agents uncertain what they will be earning from year to year. This legislation resolves this problem while saving taxpayers more than $1 billion over 10 years, according to initial estimates.
It would replace AUO with three options:
• work 80 hours in a pay period and receive straight pay;
• work 90 hours in a pay period and receive a 12.5 percent pay differential;
• or work 100 hours in a pay period and receive a 25 percent pay differential.
Art del Cueto, president of Local 2544 of the National Border Patrol Council, strongly backs the legislation – and praised Barber’s continued support for Border Patrol agents and their responsibilities to protect the country.
“I fully support it because in the end, agents will be compensated for the work they do,” del Cueto said. “It gives us certainty instead of fighting the same battle every single year. And at the same time, this will be saving taxpayers’ money. We’re not blind to the fact that the country is in a debt crisis.”
Also this week, in a letter to Rand Beers, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Barber asked for an update on the Border Patrol’s projection that it would have border security metrics finalized by Nov. 30 – two weeks from tomorrow.
“The Border Patrol cannot effectively do its job if it cannot measure success or evaluate how resources are deployed,” Barber explained. “There are areas of my district where residents know more resources are needed – but without metrics, the Border Patrol cannot make the best decisions on where and how to use its assets.”
In evaluating how the Border Patrol deploys its agents and other resources, the GAO determined that the Border Patrol lacks measures for assessing risk and need and does not have in place goals or a timeline to improve security along the Southwestern border.
The Border Patrol responded by saying said it planned to have metrics in place by November 30.
Barber co-sponsored The Border Security Results Act, which requires the secretary of Homeland Security to develop a strategy for gaining “operational control” of the international border and specific metrics for defining border security that are informed by those who live and work along the border.
The bill defined “operational control” as a condition in high traffic areas in which there is a 90 percent effectiveness rate – calculated by dividing the number of people apprehended by the total of number apprehended, turned back, and number of people who get away. Operational control also means a significant reduction in the movement of illicit drugs.
While Barber has won the support of Border Patrol agents, many of his constituents question why Barber’s standards for security are so low.