The Conclusion to CBP's $297 Million Hiring Debacle

By Preston Huennekens on April 10, 2019

In December 2018 I wrote a short blog on the perils of outsourcing work to beltway consultants. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gifted Accenture a $297 million contract to improve their hiring practices and recruit 7,500 Border Patrol agents. At the time of that writing, Accenture successfully hired two agents. As I pointed out in the post, the DHS inspector general found that they wasted tremendous amounts of money doing so:

For all this work, CBP agreed to pay $40,000 to Accenture for each new hire during the program's first year. Of that, 80 percent is paid only for an accepted offer. The remaining 20 percent is paid when the new agent enters duty. Note that a rookie border patrol agent will make $52,583 in annual salary, according to CBP. Accenture's "implementations" assured that CBP got every one agent for the price of two.

The original contract allowed CBP to renew its relationship with Accenture annually for up to four years. I suggested that CBP decline the remaining four years and demand compensation from Accenture for services left uncompleted.

An article from Law360 (behind a paywall) notes that CBP did just that. The article reports that CBP officials announced that they were cancelling the deal with Accenture after a review period that began in December. Despite this, a CBP spokesperson praised the work Accenture completed, which included advertising work that had "'steadily [drawn] candidates' to CBP." According to Law360:

CBP noted Friday that it had only obligated about $60 million in task orders to Accenture and that it is only required to pay for recruitments attributable to Accenture, not the full amount. The agency said it has paid out $21 million for completed work so far, much of that related to start-up costs such as building out a recruitment processing system and related call centers.

This is welcome news. Accenture was clearly incapable of completing the work CBP contracted it to do. The surge in apprehensions at our southwest border shows that the hiring of Border Patrol agents is even more urgent. President Trump wants 7,500 more border agents. That Accenture's methods produced only two recruits is disgraceful. For the sake of the continuing border crisis, CBP should move forward immediately to award this important contract to a competent competitor or do the work of hiring agents itself. Ideally, it won't lose tens of millions doing so.