Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Border Chief wins $61,000 bonus despite delays in building fence, failure to support agents

The Bush administration has awarded a $61,200 bonus to Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar, despite agency criticism by Congress for delays in the border fence project and for accelerating a hiring program that auditors say threatens to reduce the quality of field supervision.

Aguilar has also been criticized by border agents for not supporting former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. His non-support was greeted with a unanimous "no confidence" vote by the union representing non-supervisory border agents.

The presidential merit bonus, equal to 35 percent of Aguilar's $172,000 annual pay, is almost double the size of the $36,658 base starting salary for a Border Patrol agent.

The bonus angered many field agents, some of whom told the chief in an unsigned letter that the agency has been damaged and field agents jeopardized by his "politically expedient decisions."

The agents' four-page letter focuses on two major topics: a virtual fence project along the Arizona-Mexico border that it called "ineffective and too costly," and changes at the Border Patrol Academy to meet a presidential mandate of hiring 6,000 more agents by the end of 2008. The letter accuses Chief Aguilar of ignoring top Border Patrol executives who unanimously opposed the academy changes.

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