Committee Approves Boots on the Border Act

17 May 2017
  Elizabeth Berry

Committee Approves Flake-McCain-Johnson Boots on the Border Act

Solution to fill long-vacant CBP jobs with highly-vetted members of the law enforcement and military communities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) today applauded the passage of their Boots on the Border Act in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The legislation would help address hiring shortfalls at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by waiving onerous and duplicative CBP polygraph hiring requirements for applicants with qualifying law enforcement or military experience. 

Currently, over 1,700 Border Patrol agent positions and 1,000 CBP officer positions remain unfilled, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“The more highly-vetted law enforcement officers and veterans CBP can hire to protect our border, the better. This commonsense bill will ensure that bureaucratic hiring obstacles don’t hinder CBP’s critical border security and trade facilitation missions,” said Flake.“Staffing shortages continue to plague ports of entry and the southern border, and this waiver gives CBP the tools it needs to target and recruit applicants with the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to keep our borders and ports of entry safe.”

“We can’t effectively secure our southern border if we don’t have the manpower to get the job done,” said McCain. “This legislation would address CBP’s chronic staffing shortage by streamlining background tests for qualified veterans, military service members, and law enforcement officers in good standing. We ought to do everything we can to help these brave men and women who are willing to protect our nation, and this bill would remove unnecessary obstacles to serving once again. I appreciate the committee passing our bill today and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to quickly take up this much-needed legislation.”

“Putting more boots on the border is a key step toward securing our border and getting our Border Patrol agents the manpower they need to get the job done. Resources have been stretched too thin for too long and CBP has been hampered by frustratingly slow hiring due to bureaucratic hurdles. This bill will help fix personnel problems so we can actually hire the qualified people we need to keep our border secure,” said Johnson.

CBP is the only federal law enforcement agency with a congressionally mandated polygraph as a condition of employment. This, coupled with CBP’s necessarily thorough vetting process has contributed to only about one percent of applicants successfully being hired.

Specifically, the bill gives CBP the option to waive the current polygraph requirements for qualifying local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and transitioning military applicants who have already undergone a rigorous background check or passed a polygraph with their current law enforcement agency. For more information on the bill, please click here.


  • On May 4, 2017, Flake sent a letter to the FBI recommending the sharing of the bureau’s best practices to improve the pre-employment screening process at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Read more about the letter here.
  • On Dec. 5, 2016, Flake and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced the Customs and Border Protection Hiring and Retention (CBP HiRe) Act. The bill was designed to boost manpower at strained ports of entry along the U.S. border by giving CBP new tools to eliminate recruitment and retention obstacles that have left the agency nearly 1,000 CBP officers short of congressionally-mandated staffing levels. Read more about the bill here
  • On Oct. 19, 2015, Flake, McCain, Johnson, and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), had their bill, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act, signed into law. This law will help put veterans to work as CBP officers at understaffed U.S. ports of entry by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate on efforts to recruit and expedite the hiring of transitioning service members. Read more about the bill here.  
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