CUSTOMS STRUGGLES WITH STAFFING: Despite vows of reform during the reauthorization process two years ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to have challenges with maintaining adequate staffing levels and hiring people expediently — and lawmakers aren’t happy about it. At a hearing of the House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, they dug into a slew of reasons why the agency had trouble with hiring and retention — among them, onerous requirements for veterans and inflexible location assignments. "We will only be wasting money if you cannot retain people because of the work environment you are providing for them," Rep. Norma Torres said. "It is unacceptable when we are asking single moms, single dads to abandon their children without any notice for three months. … This is the time for a serious revision of this hiring process."
Pointing out more problems: At the hearing, Rep. Brian Higgins also dug into issues related to border infrastructure, citing in particular the planned construction of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge to connect Detroit with Ontario. The project is entirely financed by a semi-governmental nonprofit Canada Crown corporation. That’s an arrangement that, Higgins said, is cause for discomfort. “This project has been delayed substantially because of the lack of interest, lack of will, on the part of the U.S. government to contribute. … Don’t you think it speaks to a larger problem that the Canadian government is financing this?” he asked Eugene Schied, CBP’s acting executive assistant commissioner of the Office of Enterprise Services. Schied responded, “It does speak to the challenges we face in funding infrastructure.” Higgins shot back: “We are falling significantly behind. This is not a challenge — this is a crisis.”