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Border Patrol overtime system under scrutiny

Jun. 10, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
U.S. Customs And Border Protection Secures Tex-Mex
Sen. Tom Coburn says Border Patrol's overtime abuse needs to be addressed before the pay system is substantially changed. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Lawmakers and agencies are pushing for legislation that would revamp overtime rules for border patrol agents.

Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., said at a June 9 hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2013 would save money, create pay stability for agents and increase border security.

The legislation, introduced by Tester and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2013, allows the border patrol to classify jobs within three pay schedule options that allow for 20 hours of overtime, 10 hours of overtime or no overtime per two-week pay period.

“We have waited long enough and we need to move forward with this bill because it ensures stability for our border patrol agents and makes sure our borders are properly manned,” Tester said.

The legislation stems from widespread allegation that border patrol agents were abusing the current overtime system by authorizing overtime when it was not needed.

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Ronald Vitiello, the deputy chief of the Border Patrol within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Department of Homeland Security, said at the hearing the bill would save the agency up to $67 million annually and provide stability for the agency and free up resources for patrolling the border.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s application of overtime, specifically Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO), goes back many years, yet the CBP mission has substantially evolved since that time, and so too should our compensation authorities,” Vitiello said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, said the Department of Homeland Security has done nothing to stop the abuse of overtime pay and that employees who work in offices with predictable schedules should not be able to access overtime meant for emergencies.

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But he said before passing a bill that dramatically changes how federal agents are paid Congress should get to the bottom of the overtime abuses before authorizing legislation that would allow some employees to get 20 hours of overtime a pay period.

“In other words, I’m concerned that we are quietly sweeping under the rug the misconduct of management and agents at CBP. We are not holding management accountable for their years of acquiescence,” Coburn said.

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