Whether recent legislation that funds the federal government for the next six months will prevent slated furloughs at Customs and Border Protection that could snarl freight traffic at U.S. ports of entry is unclear. But the negative impact of the sequestration on freight-related construction programs — roughly $525 million — is far more certain.
The National Treasury Employee Union said the continuing resolution will give the agency more flexibility on staffing, but it’s unclear whether the slight increase in funding will prevent furloughs. The roughly 60,000-person workforce faces furloughs of up to 14 days after the federal sequestration cut the agency’s fiscal 2013 budget by $955 million. CBP earlier this month warned shippers that a hiring freeze, a reduction in overtime and furloughs could result in cargo clearance delays at ports of five days or more and longer waits at border crossings.
“While the bill requires that CBP maintain certain levels of staffing, those provisions actually worsen the impact of furloughs because they hinder the agency’s ability to save money through attrition and a planned hiring freeze,” said NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a statement.
Homeland Security Today, however, reports that the continuing resolution will allow Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to avoid CBP furloughs. The bill — passed by the House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday — provides DHS with $39.6 billion for fiscal 2013, according to the Virginia-based magazine.
Although the continuing resolution left Department of Transportation funding for highway programs untouched at $39.7 billion, the bill cuts funding for two freight-related grant programs. The bill will trim funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program by $25 million to $475 million, according to Transportation for America, a nonprofit advocacy group. The Projects of National Regional Significance program, which was authorized through MAP-21, will see its $500 million in funding stripped completely because of the continuing resolution.