April 9 - April 15
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Jumping right into it!
The Quest for a Logical Border Patrol Rank Structure
When the Border Patrol was created, it only had two positions: Border Patrol Inspectors and Immigrant Inspectors who were designated as Patrol Inspectors In Charge (PIIC). PIICs supervised the Border Patrol personnel within the subdistricts (sectors). PIICs would be considered Chief Patrol Agents today. Hat insignia, collar discs, shoulder ornaments, and buttons were silver for Patrol Inspectors and in gold for PIICs as defined in the Patrol's first uniform policy from 1924, General Order 42. In 1926, the Patrol expanded to the following uniformed positions:
See this page for their rank insignia.
Last week, I stumbled upon a graphic illustrating the career ladder of the Patrol on one of its social media accounts (I'll write about that in the future). It made me wonder: have you ever given any thought to the chaos that is the Patrol's rank structure? Just take a look at its Wikipedia page - the structure is mind-boggling!
Back in 2007, the Patrol was considering a revamp of its rank insignia hierarchy. Intrigued by the idea, I decided to delve into the subject and try to come up with a well-thought-out and logical proposal. To start, I mapped out all of the Patrol's positions and, to my astonishment, there were thirty-six in total!
The Military Approach
My initial approach was to examine the military and determine the percentage of forces occupying each pay grade, intending to apply the same logic to the Patrol. Here are the approximate numbers I found:
Unfortunately, this method didn't work as I'd hoped. None of those percentages plugged into the Patrol well.
The Pay-based Approach
Next, I attempted to create a Border Patrol rank structure based purely on pay. However, this approach was also flawed. For example, a GS-13 Supervisory Border Patrol Agent might receive a step increase that pushes them into the next rank insignia, despite the scope and complexity of their position remaining unchanged. Furthermore, those at the GS-14 and GS-15 pay cap would all share the same insignia. This approach wasn't viable either.
The Personal Perception Approach
Then, I had a eureka moment! I created an Excel spreadsheet, listing each USBP position title in a column and assigning three additional columns for Scope, Complexity, and Influence, with a maximum of 10 points each. Naturally, the Chief of the Border Patrol would score 30 points, and all other positions would receive less. After spending a considerable amount of time assigning values, I sorted the positions based on total points and started designating rank insignia. Upon completion, I was initially thrilled with my results - a rank insignia structure for the Patrol that seemed logical, defendable, and undoubtedly the best. But then reality struck...
I realized my method was purely based on my personal perception of the prestige associated with each position. Embarrassed by my amateurish approach, I was grateful I hadn't shared it with too many people.
A New, Improved Structure
Yet, I still believed there had to be a better rank structure for the Patrol. Currently, the Patrol's system is title-centric. A Chief Patrol Agent (CPA) wears two stars regardless of whether they are a Senior Executive Service (SES) member or a GS-15. A Patrol Agent in Charge dons eagles whether overseeing a 600+ agent station as a GS-15 or a 10-agent station as a GS-13. Furthermore, a GS-15 CPA sports two stars, while an HQ SES Deputy Directorate Chief has only one. Ridiculous, right? This system is confusing not only for the workforce but especially for external groups.
Eventually, I developed a logic that focuses on the scope and complexity of each position, as reflected in their assigned pay grade, while accommodating certain exceptions specific to the Patrol.
The Proposed Structure
I believe this new structure addresses the issue of overlapping pay grades and rank insignia. Check out the table below and let me know your thoughts.
Maybe this will motivate the HQ folks to do better and to develop a more coherent and logical Border Patrol rank structure.
Now to the history! In 1904, Jeff Milton was appointed a Chinese Inspector. The Father of the Border Patrol opined on the merging of customs and immigration functions in 1922. The birth of the USBP Pistol Team happens in 1935 and much more!
There are no known Newton-Azrak Award anniversaries for the week. However, please see the 1981 recipients for the Newton-Azrak Award. No dates are given for any of their actions. Five of the 26 non-USBP Newton-Azrak Award recipients were from 1981.
We remember Border Patrol Agent Christopher Shane Simpkins on the anniversary of his death.
Enjoy and have a great week!
ESPRIT DE CORPS
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Senior Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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