WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) are demanding answers about the Biden Administration’s decision to mobilize untrained federal government bureaucrats to care for the surge in unaccompanied alien children.
The border crisis has grown so large that the Biden Administration is sending staff from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to assist in caring for unaccompanied alien children. The Biden Administration has failed to acknowledge the crisis and is using the federal workforce as a crutch rather than addressing the issue at hand.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is allegedly in charge of the border crisis, has gone almost 60 days without a news conference and has failed to even visit the border. This crisis is rapidly growing out of hand and the Biden Administration cannot continue to ignore it. Governor Bill Lee, along with almost a dozen of other Governors, echoed these sentiments in a recent letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris.
Over 100 EPA Officials May Have Already Been Deployed To Assist With The Border Crisis
According to news reports, last month, leaders at federal agencies as diverse as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) e-mailed their employees to present the HHS detail opportunity and encourage staff to apply. At the EPA alone, more than one hundred employees have reportedly expressed interest, and many have already been deployed.
Taxpayers Are Being Forced To Pay Because Biden Will Not Acknowledge His Self-Induced Crisis
Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the Biden Administration's self-induced crisis. Utilizing government employees as a stop gap and continuing to pay niche experts from entirely unrelated agencies steep salaries that are consistent with their normal duties but inconsistent with the duties they will be conducting as detailees is unacceptable.
You can read the full letter here or below.
Dear Secretary Becerra:
As the unprecedented number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) crossing the southern border continue to overwhelm Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities, HHS is attempting to address personnel shortages by recruiting volunteers from other parts of the federal government. In March, HHS partnered with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to advertise an opportunity for federal employees to be detailed to HHS to assist with the care and placement of UAC. That opportunity is still being advertised and is still ongoing. According to news reports, last month, leaders at federal agencies as diverse as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) e-mailed their employees to present the HHS detail opportunity and encourage staff to apply. At the EPA alone, more than one hundred employees have reportedly expressed interest, and many have already been deployed. We write to ask for additional details about the nature, extent, and cost of these deployments.
According to the formal description of the detail position posted on OPM's website, USA Jobs, deployments may last up to 120 days, and responsibilities may include "[m]aintain[ing] line of sight and supervision of children," "[a]ssess[ing] the needs of unaccompanied children in care," and helping to interview children and collect information in order to expedite their discharge or placement. Although the description states that the closing date for the position is May 21, 2021, it also states that this date "will be extended as necessary to meet the volunteer staffing need.”
These duties do not appear to require advanced technical skills, and the detail assignment has no education qualification requirement. Nevertheless, the job description now includes a clarification stating that the position is available to "[c]urrent Federal employees from any agency at any grade." According to the listing, "[d]etailees will be compensated at their current rate of pay and with their current locality. Grade and step are not affected." This appears to mean that a GS-15 federal employee from a major metropolitan area who volunteers for the detail assignment should expect to be paid at a rate consistent with a yearly salary of as much as $172,500 per year. Some Executive Branch employees who are not subject to the General Schedule could expect to receive more than that.
Furthermore, it appears some detailees will have the opportunity to earn substantially more than their base pay. The USA Jobs listing states: "[d]etailees may be required to work evenings and/or weekends. Extensive overtime may be required. Appropriate premium pay rates will be used in accordance with Federal Pay regulations." ORR appears to be ultimately covering all of these expenses, including base pay, overtime, premium pay, travel, lodging, and a per diem.
The extension of the detail assignment to all current federal employees raises serious questions regarding cost efficiency. It is unclear what steps the Biden Administration is taking to ensure that volunteers are placed into roles that are commensurate with their levels of applicable experience and that those asked to provide childcare are not only eligible but also qualified to do so. It is also unclear whether the Biden Administration is taking any steps to ensure that detailees are not vastly overqualified and overpaid for the work they are performing during their detail assignments.
Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the Biden Administration's self-induced crisis. Utilizing government employees as a stop gap and continuing to pay niche experts from entirely unrelated agencies steep salaries that are consistent with their normal duties but inconsistent with the duties they will be conducting as detailees is unacceptable. At no point has Congress ever intended through its legislation or appropriations, nor has any taxpayer ever expected, to pay for leading scientists, engineers, and other experts in their fields to care for children at the southern border.
It is important for Congress to ensure that resources are allocated in a cost effective manner and that federal tax dollars are not being wasted. Accordingly, we ask that you contact us to schedule a briefing and answer the following questions no later than June 1, 2021.
1. How many detailees is HHS currently seeking? Does HHS project that its need for detailees will change in the future and/or fluctuate with seasonal migration patterns?
2. Does HHS anticipate extending the closing date for the detail position currently listed on USA Jobs beyond the current deadline of May 21, 2021? If so, for how long does HHS expect to continue seeking detailees?
3. When evaluating applications, what criteria is HHS using to determine whether an applicant is qualified to provide childcare?
4. Please provide a complete list of the federal agencies whose employees have applied to be detailed to HHS for purposes of caring for UAC. For each agency on the list, please provide a breakdown of the number of detailees who have been accepted to serve detail assignments and their scheduled dates of deployment.
5. For each federal employee currently serving or scheduled to serve a detail assignment at a UAC facility, please provide the person's job title, relevant pay scale and level, locality pay area, and salary.
6. For each agency providing detailees to HHS for purposes of caring for UAC, please describe the terms under which detailees are being provided to HHS and the terms under which the parent agency is scheduled to be reimbursed by HHS.
7. Is HHS seeking to hire additional temporary or permanent staff to eliminate the need for detailees?
8. Please describe the training HHS is providing to detailees prior to their deployment to HHS facilities.
9. Please describe the facilities where detailees are being housed. How much is HHS spending in total per week to cover lodging for the detailees?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Should you have questions, please contact Daniel Parker of Senator Grassley's Judiciary Committee staff at 202-224-5225.