Do Federal Staffing Shortages Facilitate Opioid Smuggling?


by Joe Davidson.

The opioid crisis knows no bounds.

Our last Federal Insider column was about President Trump’s long-overdue opioid strategy, which was deemed “missing in action” at a House hearing last week, despite his declaration that the epidemic is a nationwide public health emergency. It kills more than 115 Americans a day.

Now, a Senate hearing will explore the growing opioid abuse among seniors, and a recent report pointed to border staffing shortages that facilitate drug smuggling….

In response to the report, a Customs & Border Portrol statement said staffing has increased at the six main international mail facilities by 20 percent during the past six months. “CBP has made significant investments and improvements in our drug detection, identification, and targeting capabilities. …” the agency said. “As an indicator of our efforts, we have intercepted more fentanyl so far this fiscal year than the entire previous fiscal year.”

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 25,000 CBP officers, agriculture specialists and trade enforcement staffers, said the report “provides further evidence that the staffing crisis is harmful to our nation’s safety and security.”

While Marjorie Clifton, executive director of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, says the report outlines the problem well, she believes it misses “a significant point in what causes the problem at the ports of entry.”

Noting the report’s finding that “there are more than five times as many fentanyl seizures at mail facilities than at land ports of entry,” Clifton said “that fact alone begs the question of why is fentanyl being sent through the international mail system. Staffing shortages was listed as a reason, but I believe one of the primary reasons is the lack of security measures that are currently being imposed on international posts.”

Because of inadequate security measures, Clifton said “CBP must sift through hundreds of thousands of inbound postal packages daily — probably contributing to the need for many of the officers mentioned in the report.”

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