CBP Leadership Town Hall

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*This is the final entry in our EC 2017 Trade Symposium Series. Our first entry discussed the opening remarks and missions priorities as set out by Executive Assistant Commissioner, Brenda Smith. Our second entry recounts the President of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association’s, Geoff Powell’s, interview with Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Our third entry discussed North American Collaboration for Cargo Processing. Our fourth entry discussed the evolution of CBP’s practices in response to the evolving trade environment. Our fifth entry discussed the intelligence enforcement panel, moderated by Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith. Our sixth entry discussed the opportunities and challenges presented by e-Commerce.  ​ 


Prior to the start of the breakout sessions, 4 of CBP’s Executive Assistant Commissioners gathered on a panel to discuss their priorities with respect to supporting the trade mission. Alongside EAC Brenda Smith (Office of International Trade) and EAC Todd Owen (Office of Field Operations), Robert Perez, Acting EAC for Operations Support and Kathryn Kolbe, EAC for Enterprise Services, discussed how the Offices under their leadership support trade enforcement and trade facilitation. 

Perez, who is also the Director of Field Operations for the New York Field Office, discussed how the Offices of International Affairs (INA), Intelligence (OI), the CBP Laboratories & Scientific Services (LSS), and Policy, Planning, Analysis, & Evaluation (PPA&E) all have a role in supporting trade enforcement and facilitation. INA, for example, helps disseminate U.S. best practices in compliance, modernization, and information-sharing around the world and via the WCO. He also discussed the need to model and simulate trade flows; and the use of new technologies, such as machine learning and predictive analytics to manage risk. The Analytics, Modeling, and Simulation Division falls under Operations Support. 

Kolbe discussed how the budgeting process, facilities management, human resources, and revenue collection all played a role in supporting trade as well. Hiring has been a challenge at CBP in recent years for both the Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations. It was mentioned that the format of the polygraph test was being changed, which should result in a higher pass rate. Kolbe discussed the need to minimize ACE outages through better IT infrastructure

EAC Smith discussed how the passage of the TFTEA meant a shift in business processes for CBP. The law’s new requirements and 6 new regulatory packages meant that additional resources were needed from CBP’s mission support offices. She discussed the need to enhance activities with respect to trade targeting, trusted trader programs, and exports. 

EAC Owen discussed 4 of his top concerns in the trade environment.

  1. Air cargo security, particularly given the increased volume of express consignment packages enabled through e-commerce
  2. Securing e-commerce packages and the heightened risk for smuggled narcotics and counterfeit goods;
  3. Officer Staffing– OFO was below their legally authorized number of Officers by 1,100. This has especially been a challenge in Southwest Border ports
  4. Canada legalizing marijuana– This issue has not received as much attention as the others, but it may lead to significantly more issues at the northern border; increased inspections in secondary screening areas where space is already at a premium. Also, if truck drivers are caught, they will be removed from the CTPAT Program. 

Owen reiterated the importance of Unified Cargo Processing (UCP) and how these joint operations between CBP and their counterparts in Mexico were reducing duplicative inspections while saving time and money for the trade community. He also mentioned how advancements in non-intrusive inspection (NII) technology, particularly variable energy scanning for trucks was going to be key for the future. Currently, about 7 trucks/hour are scanned, but in the future, CBP hoped to scan as many as 10 times that amount if a truck could be scanned at speed without the driver getting out. A pilot project is underway at the Port of Donna, TX near Laredo, where radiation scanning, NII imaging, and license plate readers were being integrated for faster truck processing.

During the Question & Answer portion, further concerns were voiced about ACE outages. Trade members asked if CBP could share that information in a more timely manner with them in the future. It was also mentioned that the Trusted Trader Program should be modified to help address risk management challenges in e-commerce.

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