The U.S. Border Patrol, scrambling to hire thousands of agents by the end of the year, is taking its recruiting efforts overseas to try to enlist military veterans who have fulfilled their tours of duty, USA Today reported Monday.

“This is a premier law enforcement agency, and we offer an opportunity for service on the front lines of the country,” Joe Arata, a recruiter for Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection division, which includes the Border Patrol, told the paper.

The department has done some recruiting at overseas bases, and CBP spokeswoman Tara Dunlop told USA Today that more is planned.

In 2001, the Border Patrol had fewer than 10,000 agents covering the northern and southern borders with Canada and Mexico. A buildup in recent years has brought the ranks to 15,500, the paper noted. President Bush has said he wants the size of the agency doubled, to 20,000 agents, by the time he leaves office in January.

The government has done some unconventional recruiting, plastering the Border Patrol’s name on the side of a NASCAR racer and sending CBP’s honor guard to professional football games.

The agency routinely recruits at U.S. military bases and at job fairs in the United States.

Arata told USA Today that the agency pays up to $70,000 a year after three years. An average Army sergeant with four years’ service would earn $26,964 base pay, plus housing and other benefits.

Before they are sent to the border to work, new agents go through 55 days of training at the Border Patrol’s academy in Artesia, N.M., USA Today reported.

If they don’t speak Spanish, they take another 40 days of intensive language training, Dunlop told the paper.

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