US Customs and Border Protection Agency Wasted $5 Million on Needless Polygraph Tests
According to a report from Judicial Watch, the front-line Department of Homeland Security agency (US Customs and Border Protection) wasted $5 million on polygraph (lie-detector) tests for “unsuitable” job applicants, ie. those who had admitted to committing criminal acts or using drugs.
This is bizarre for two reasons. First, why is the government agency charged with keeping Americans safe considering hiring agents with criminal records. Second, why waste money on polygraph tests for applicants who are clearly unsuitable? What was the point? To prove that people looking for a job were lying about the criminal record?
According to JW:
CBP functions under the immense Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has some 60,000 employees, making it one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations. Its duty is to safeguard America’s borders while enabling legitimate trade and travel, a monumental task that requires precision and good judgement. On a typical day, CBP checks over 67,000 cargo containers, seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs and screens about a million visitors to the U.S. Agents work in land borders, airports and seaports and they consider themselves the “guardians of our nation’s borders,” as well as “America’s frontline.” Undoubtedly, it’s a critical job that requires topnotch personnel—with clean criminal backgrounds—dedicated to the mission.
Why would this agency, so imperative to national security, even think of considering job candidates that don’t meet the highest standards? The answer to that simple question remains a mystery, but at least we have a commitment from CBP brass that adjudicators will immediately remove “unsuitable” job applicants from the hiring process when the candidate admits wrongdoing rather than continue spending money and resources on keeping them in the pool. It required a federal audit to accomplish this and there’s no telling how long it’s been going on. Between 2013 and 2016 CBP gave 2,300 applicants polygraph tests after they had admitted drug use or criminal activity which automatically disqualified from becoming agents, according to a DHS Inspector General report issued this month. This cost the government an unthinkable $5.1 million, the IG determined. During the same period CBP spent a total of about $72.3 million to administer polygraphs to 32,847 applicants.
Each polygraph test costs the government $2,200, the DHS watchdog reveals in the report. “CBP administered polygraph examinations to applicants who previously provided disqualifying information on employment documents or during the pre-test interview,” the report states. “This occurred because CBP’s process did not stop, and is not sufficient to prevent, unsuitable applicants from continuing through the polygraph examination.” The unqualified candidates didn’t have minor background glitches, but rather “significant pre-test admissions of wrongdoing,” the IG found, suggesting that CBP implement a security interview and improved utilization of the adjudicative process to put its funds to better use by focusing on applicants with the best chance of making it through the hiring process.
Although in the end, the problem really isn’t with the money—$5 million is not the end of the world. The far bigger issue is the fact that the agency is contemplating hiring individuals who may be compromised, that is, people with criminal backgrounds.
Border guards are key to stopping the smuggling of humans and drugs into America, and if even a small number are cooperate with drug cartels, the entire system fails—all it takes is one bad apple, as it were.