GAO Reviews Pay Assignment Continuity Plan
Two years after lawmakers passed the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2014 (BPAPRA) to establish a new overtime compensation system for Border Patrol agents, the Government Accountability Office found the program to be performing well overall in a report released yesterday.
Under BPAPRA, Border Patrol agents at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are able to elect one of three pay rates in accordance with the amount of scheduled overtime the agents choose or are assigned to work.
The rates of pay are as follows: Level 1 tour of duty (2 hours daily overtime with 25 percent pay supplement), Level 2 (1 hour daily overtime with 12.5 percent pay supplement), and Basic (no overtime or corresponding supplement).
Under BPAPRA, a Border Patrol agent’s overtime supplement constitutes basic pay in order to determine the agent’s retirement annuities, which are based on each individual’s highest average salary over a three-year period. BPAPRA required that CBP work with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop and implement a plan to ensure pay assignment continuity during the “control period,” or the three years of service before an agent becomes eligible for immediate retirement.
Of the 1,784 agents who entered the control period as of January 2016, CBP assigned approximately 96 percent to Level 1 tour of duty, while the remaining four percent of agents elected or were assigned to a lower tour of duty level to maintain consistency with their career average overtime percentage.
In its report, GAO stated that this program may affect CBP’s workforce planning because when an agent enters into the control period, the person is locked into his or her tour of duty and accompanying overtime percentage for the remainder of the individual’s career, which could be 10 years or more.
Additionally, CBP, Border Patrol, and National Border Patrol Council officials said the lack of flexibility in allowing agents to choose to work less overtime during certain periods of their careers (perhaps for family or medical reasons) or during their control period may adversely affect CBP’s recruitment and retention of Border Patrol agents.
Overall, GAO’s report offered no recommendations for the program and concluded it was too soon to determine the extent of BPAPRA’s effects on “CBP’s workforce planning, individual agents’ retirement benefits, or CBP’s recruitment and retention of agents.”
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