Washington, D.C. – During a Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned John P. Wagner, an Acting Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Field Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, about various problems plaguing Miami International Airport (MIA).
Rubio highlighted the damage being done to MIA, the second busiest international gateway to the US, as a result of long wait times, a problematic staffing model, and kiosks that need updating.
Video of today’s exchange is available here.
Excerpts are available below.
Senator Marco Rubio: “So this is really, really complicated, and really problematic. And then I look at some of the models being used to make some decisions here – that 2,000 new officers have been approved. I know it’s going to take about 18 months to two years to get most of them online, which is in and of itself a very long wait given the damage that’s already happening – it is what it is.
“But the model doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. For example, Newark, which is not even on the chart of major delays, they got 100 new agents. And Miami only got 60. So the second busiest international [gateway to] America got 3% of the new agents. Can you just explain to me, first of all, what was the model that led to that determination?”
Rubio: “The second question that I have has to do with the staffing models once they’re in place – how you allocate resources based on peak times. And you talked earlier about how there’s close coordination with the airport and the airlines on when to surge up the number of agents versus when not to. Miami Airport has told us, however, that you will not share the staffing model. Is the staffing model something you don’t share with the airlines in the airport? According to them, they don’t know what the staffing model is for how you surge personnel.”
Rubio: “What about the model to determine when to surge personnel? Not the actual determination you come up with, but how you came up with it? Are they aware of what you use to determine how much personnel to – ”
John P. Wagner: “They should be, and if not we will certainly share that information with them – how we come about the workload staffing model numbers, the activities we – it comes to about 170 different activities we counted to come up with the workload for the port of entry. We can share the average processing time of each one of those activities. There’s nothing, say, secretive or controversial or classified behind that kind of information.”
Rubio: “Well that’s completely contrary to what the airport told me, so we’ve got to figure that out.”
Rubio: “You have this program now where airports can pay to put the kiosks – in Miami, I think they put in like 70 new kiosks. Here’s the problem that they’re having that I hope we can address, and this should be easy to address. The problem that they have is that their wait time, those kiosks as they’re currently configured, only work for US citizens that are returning, as they’re currently configured.
“Now, in Miami, they don’t work for the international passenger yet, which is where their wait times are coming from. What they need is a software upgrade on those kiosks so that they’ll work for international travelers. Can you work with us, or can you pledge with us, we’re going to get that software in there so that these kiosks that they’ve paid for will actually work for the cause of their waits?”
Wagner: “We have not sketched out what the requirements would be or what the timeline of that would be, but that’s what we are going to be focusing on within the coming weeks. We’ll have a better projection of what that timeline should be.”
Rubio: “Well the sooner, the better because they’ve got a mess on their hands over there. I mean, I really worry about permanent damage being done to that port of entry.”