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CBP Cites Tyler County Native for Excellence

Release Date: 
January 12, 2018

Tenacious Texan makes inquiry resulting in $271K annual savings

HOUSTON – Newly hired-supervisors are expected to bring change, roll out ideas or shake things up; but no one imagined a new supervisor to achieve a return on investment of $271,477, annually.

Ka'Lea Buckner Awarded for Excellence
Supervisory Mission Support
Specialist Ka'Lea Buckner
earns Commissioner's Award
for Excellence.

This is exactly what happened when U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee Ka’Lea Buckner, a Texas native and 2003 Warren High School graduate, arrived to Houston leaving her job with the U.S. Border Patrol in Kingsville, Texas at the tail end of the 2016 fiscal year.

It is common knowledge that budget officers scrutinize end-of-year expenditures. It was such scrutiny that brought an employee to notify Buckner, the newly-arrived supervisor and budget officer, of a $27,000 deficit that must be funded before September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“Trying to cover a $27,000 bill is not an easy task; and when it’s in early September, it’s even more stressful,” Buckner said. “When I realized the invoices were for outstanding phone bills, I knew two things right away. We were paying entirely too much for communication services, and budget forecasting would be my number one goal for fiscal year 2017.”

Though forecasting was the long-term solution, Buckner recognized that something more immediate could be done regarding the communications cost.

“I reviewed the telephone accounts and immediately called the phone company,” she said. “To their credit, the phone company was extremely patient with me as I went line by line to review each account.”

Though it sounded easy enough, Buckner explained, the process was very tedious and required lots of patience. In the end, she enrolled all 77 telephone accounts on promotional contracts. These accounts service hundreds of telephone lines in CBP ports of entry spanning from Texas to Oklahoma and when she was done, she saved her new employer $271,477 for fiscal year 2017 and beyond.

Stacks of folders holding telephone bills
This is only part of the stacks,
SMSS Ka'lea Buckner
reviewed when working with a
phone company to reduce costs.

“I was shocked to learn the amount she was saving us,” said Houston CBP Director of Field Operations Judson W. Murdock II. “I was pleased to learn that those annual savings would stay in Houston so we are able to fund other newly-created programs.”

Buckner’s tenacity also achieved $38,526 credit for one telephone account, which means, the bill will not require an actual payment for about four years.

So how did Buckner know promotional contracts had expired? She said she didn’t know the extent of what she would find, but a large deficit for communication lines sounded familiar.

“Fortunately, I was acquainted with promotional plans before arriving to Houston,” the six-year CBP veteran said with an easy grin. “When I worked at the Kingsville Border Patrol Station, we saw our telephone bills go up about $7,000 from one month to the next.”

Turns out, there is extremely fine print on the telephone bill notifying the account holder of any price changes due to take place within the next 60 to 90 days including promotional rates set to expire if not renewed within a given timeframe, she explained.

It was a lesson the Texan native is not soon to forget. For her commitment to excellence, Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan awarded Buckner with a prestigious Commissioners Award for Excellence in Mission Support.

After graduating from Warren High School, Buckner went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. She taught secondary Biology before she was hired as a mission support specialist with the U.S. Border Patrol in 2011. She is married to Warren High School classmate, Jerrod K. Buckner, a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Not only does Buckner credit her supportive husband for much of her success, but having been raised by her grandparents, Charles and Sheri Buscher of Tyler County, she admits to having adopted their excellent work ethic.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international trade and travel. On a typical day, CBP welcomes more than 1 million passengers and is currently hiring in various careers.

Last modified: 
February 3, 2021