Bureaucrats and Border Security, part I

Posted: June 24, 2011 in analysis

In the CNN New Hampshire Republican Debate, Newt Gingrich said the following about illegal immigration and border security.

Just one last example. If you don’t want to use the National Guard, take — take half of the current Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy in Washington, transplant it to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. You’ll have more than enough people to control the border.

This naturally leads to two questions.  How many people would that be? And would that be enough to control the border?  I’ll address the first question here, and the second in a separate post shortly.  (And a third question, is border control not a problem in California?)

How Many Washington Bureaucrats Does DHS Have?

The Department of Homeland Security has over 200,000 employees, but most of them are not part of the Washington bureaucracy.  Getting a good number for who is and who is not will be difficult, but we can make some educated estimates, and err on the side of more bureaucracy rather than less.

To get these numbers, we’ll need to look at the component agencies of DHS one at a time.

  1. Citizenship and Immigration Services:  This is the old INS, dealing with visas, citizenship applications, asylum requests, and so on.  It has 18,000 employees.  In the absence of a good breakdown, lets say 3/4 of them are based in Washingon, and the other 1/4 in the 250 field offices around the world.  We’ll furthermore say that all 13,500 of the Washington employees are bureaucrats.
  2. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:  The enforcement arm of the old INS.  20,000 employees, but these are likely to be slanted more towards active agents.  Being very generous to Newt, we’ll say half of ICE is Washington bureaucrats, or another 10,000.
  3. Transportation Security Administration:  The people who want to either irradiate or grope you at the airports.  The TSA has 50,000 employees, but the vast majority of these (45,000+) are airport screeners or surface cargo inspectors.  We’ll say all of the balance and even some of the screeners qualify as Washington bureaucrats, and add another 10,000 to the tally.
  4. United States Coast Guard:  Provides maritime security and search and rescue, among other things.  42,000 active duty personal and 8,000 civilians.  I thought this one would be hard to break down, but the I found the USCG Headquarters building has a staff of 1500 sailors and 1200 civilians.  This may not be the only Washington location for Coast Guard bureucrats, so we’ll double it.  So, 5400 more into the pot.
  5. Secret Service: They are tasked with protecting the President, among other duties.  This is not a very large agency, with only 8,000 employees.  Let’s give Newt 1000 of them.
  6. Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMAs job is to manage and coordinate domestic US disaster response.  I can’t find any sort of breakdown about who does what job, but given Republican attitudes towards FEMA in the past, we’ll say that the entire agency, all 7,000 employees, are on the chopping block.
  7. Customs and Border Protection:  I saved this one for last.  These are the people who are actually doing the job Mr. Gingrich wants to transfer all the other people to do. There are 60,000 employees, but 20,000 of them are customs screeners, and another 20,000 are already securing the Mexican border.  We’ll put the other 20,000 into the bureaucracy category.

There are also dozens of smaller offices, including the structure of the DHS itself.  The total number of listed employees of the Department of Homeland Security is 216,000 people, and we’ve accounted for 212,000 above.  That leaves only 4000 more bureaucrats to draw on for the new border protection force.

That leaves us with 70,900 Washington bureaucrats as part of DHS.  The plan is to leave half of them in their jobs, and use the other half for border security.  So, we take 35,450 of them, transfer them to Mexican border states (or lay them off and hire people with better skills) to add to the 20,000 border patrol agents already in place.

Would 55,450 border patrol agents be enough to secure the US-Mexican border?  Find out how I plan to answer that question in the next post in this series.

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