U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ), along with other senators, applauded the unanimous Senate approval recently of S. 1603, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act.
The bipartisan bill was designed to put veterans to work as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at understaffed U.S. ports of entry. Its approval by the Senate closely followed an announcement from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson that more than half of the 2,000 new CBP officer positions --- created by Congress in 2014 to improve security and reduce gridlocked traffic at ports -- had yet to be filled.
While Johnson attributed the shortfall to delays associated with background investigations, low polygraph clearance rates and a shortage of federal polygraph examiners, among other reasons, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act will require the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate on recruiting and expediting hiring of outgoing U.S. military service members – some of whom can enter the application process with an active security clearance – to serve as CBP officers at ports.
Flake and McCain were instrumental in ushering the bill into existence. After Flake expressed concerns to Johnson at an April hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the slow hiring pace, he and McCain sent a letter in May to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Johnson, proposing that both agencies partner to help military service members re-entering the civilian workforce find employment at understaffed ports of entry.
The bill would not raise costs or impact existing veteran hiring efforts.