CBP Aims to Refine Targeting Methods for International Mail Amidst E-Commerce Boom and Opioid Crisis

Given the rapid growth of e-commerce in recent years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel have faced greater challenges in screening and inspecting the increased volume of international items shipped to the U.S. via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and through express consignment carriers, such as FedEx, DHL, and UPS.  Traditionally low-volume facilities, where CBP does not have the same level of resources as it does at busier ports, are facing a significantly increased volume of shipments. Meanwhile, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid causing an increased number of deaths, is being illegally mailed through these channels.

CBP has been working to enhance its e-commerce enforcement strategy, including through more efficient targeting practices used to identify high-risk shipments. Unlike express consignment carriers, and carriers in other modes of transportation, currently the USPS is not required to provide CBP with electronic advance data (EAD), such as the shipper’s and recipient’s name and address, which would be used in part to target high-risk parcels for inspection.  Over the last couple years, CBP has been conducting pilot programs along with USPS at the New York International Service Center to use EAD on samples of incoming mail. While some useful data has been obtained, controls used to assess the pilots’ cost-benefit metrics could still be improved. This is the recommendation of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has conducted a study of CBP’s targeting practices on international mail. GAO found, for example, that in one of the pilots, the USPS only provided 58% of the targeted mail to CBP for inspection.

CBP concurred with GAO recommendations that existing pilots could be used as an opportunity for CBP and USPS to: (1) articulate performance goals for the pilots, (2) collect data and assess the pilots on their success in enabling USPS to provide targeted mail to CBP for inspection, and (3) assess the costs and benefits of various methods of choosing mail for inspection.

The Full Report can be found on the GAO Website