Homeland Security Committee Passes Tester’s Border Patrol Bill

Senator’s bipartisan legislation will modernize pay system, bolster security, save taxpayers billions

 (U.S. SENATE) – The Senate Homeland Security Committee today approved Senator Jon Tester’s ground-breaking bill to reform the Border Patrol Agent pay system. 

Tester’s bipartisan legislation, the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act, will provide Agents with more reliable pay and work schedules, enhance border security and save the government up to $70 million every year. 

“The need for a modern pay schedule that provides stability for Agents and their families is something I hear about every time I visit the border,” said Tester, whose state shares a 545-mile border with Canada.  “Establishing a new pay schedule will get more Agents on the borders and make our nation more secure while actually saving taxpayers money.  It’s a win across the board.” 

Tester introduced his bill last November in the wake of a government report that shows the Department of Homeland Security was relying upon an outdated pay system to improperly compensate workers who must sometimes stay on duty beyond normal business hours, such as law enforcement officers responding to criminal activity.  

“Border Patrol Agents like me strongly back this legislation because it bolsters efforts to secure the border, and it ensures we have a pay system that it is more reflective of our work and offers more predictable hours and paychecks for us and our families,” said Jonathan Perkins, an agent in Sweet Grass, Montana.  “Keeping America's borders safe is a tough job, and I appreciate Senator Tester standing alongside us.” 

Co-sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tester’s measure allows Border Patrol Agents to choose between three pay schedule options and work either 100 hours (20 hours of overtime), 90 hours (10 hours of overtime), or 80 hours (no overtime) per pay period.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have testified that the new pay system would provide additional manpower in the field to address security threats along the border.  And in states like Montana, where agents must often travel long distances to assigned locations in frontier or rugged areas along the border, Tester’s legislation would reduce gaps in security between shifts. 

The Border Patrol, an arm of the Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection, employs more than 21,000 Border Patrol Agents.  The agents’ current pay system was established more than 40 years ago. 

Representatives from the National Border Patrol Council and CBP hailed Tester and McCain’s measure at a committee hearing earlier this month. 

“We are probably the first labor organization to come before this Committee asking for a pay cut,” said Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council.  “My Agents are asking you to do this because ensuring proper manpower, stability and safety are worth the trade.” 

“If enacted, the bill would provide the necessary tools to ensure that a Border Patrol Agent is available to continue work and meet mission requirements,” said Ronald Vitello, Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol.  “We thank the Committee for developing legislation to address CBP’s needs for a cost-efficient and equitable overtime compensation system that would meet the needs of a 21st century border.” 

Tester, a member of the Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, previously held a hearing in December to examine the overtime abuse issue.  

The Senators’ bipartisan bill, which is also co-sponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Heidi Heikamp (D-N.D.), is available online HERE.  Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives. 

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 Contact:          Marnee Banks or Dan Malessa (Tester) - (202) 228-0371