INDIANAPOLIS (April 6, 2016) – With one of the nation’s largest air cargo centers in Indianapolis, the role of U.S. Customs agents is critical to the safety of Hoosiers.
The application process, for the highly-scrutinized positions, begins here, too.
“All of that gets processed here in Indianapolis,” U.S. Customs and Border Protections Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in an interview with FOX 59. “These people work very, very hard to try and get the very best people and to get them on board as quickly as possible.”
But nationwide there is a shortage of customs and border patrol agents, with more than 2,000 positions needing to be filled.
“We have to make sure that people that may want to do harm to this country are not allowed in,” said Kerlikowske. “And that’s always a concern.”
From customs agents at the Indianapolis International Airport, to border patrol agents, Kerlikowske was in Indianapolis this week in part hoping to recruit new agents.
He met with local economic and law enforcement leaders during a series of meetings.
“I think one of the greatest concerns are what are called homegrown threats,” said Kerlikowske.
Congress has recently questioned the agency’s hiring process, one that recently took more than 400 days. Kerlikowske said that number has been reduced to about 160.
“I think morale is a difficult issue, and unfortunately there’s salary issues not adequately resolved more recently, but we’ve going to work to try and correct that if we can,” said Kerlikowske.
Indiana’s footprint is mainly in customs.
Kerlikowske said it’s his top priority to fill positions with qualified applicants as quick as possible, a responsibility with state and national security implications.
"To identify people coming into an international port of entry that may want to do us harm,” said Kerlikowske. “And making sure they're not allowed into the country and that they're returned to their country of origin."