U.S. Customs and Border Protection spent about $5 million conducting polygraph tests on job applicants who had already been disqualified for employment due to criminal activity, the Office of the Inspector General said in a report released Thursday.
Analyzing a representative sample of 380 polygraph exams CBP conducted between 2013 and 2016, the OIG found that “nearly 20 percent of that sample made disqualifying admissions during the pre-polygraph interview,” the report said.
President Donald Trump’s budget includes money to hire 5,000 additional border agents in the near future, raising concerns about a backlog in the hiring process and making the polygraph waste issue all the more important.
Each polygraph test costs $2,200 of taxpayer money, and 2,300 applicants admitted to disqualifying criminal activity before the polygraph. The range of criminal acts some applicants admitted to included “illegal drug use, drug smuggling, human trafficking, [and] having close personal relationships with people who commit such crimes.”
A video explainer for applicants preparing for the polygraph posted on the CBP website says that test administrators will ask questions related to drug use, “unreported criminal activity,” foreign contacts and involvement with terrorism.
The OIG found that the hiring authorities failed to use an adjudication process that allows examiners to confirm whether an applicant’s pre-test interview includes admission of disqualifying activity.
The OIG said that the border patrol has implemented policies to dismiss an applicant who admits to wrongdoing before the expensive polygraph test.
“Given its plans to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol Agents, it is important that CBP focus its resources on the most qualified and suitable applicants,” Inspector General John Roth said in a statement. “We are pleased that CBP has adopted one of our recommended changes to increase efficiency in its polygraph process.”
Ending the polygraph process early for disqualified applicants could also address the employment backlog. The CBP does not want to lower standards, but the service is considering waiving the polygraph for applicants with “a demonstrated track record of trustworthiness and service,” including former law enforcement officers,” Arizona Central reports.
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