U.S. Customs and Border Protection is inviting technology, equipment, and services vendors to its headquarters next week for a briefing on the changing operational environment and strategy of an agency that is moving beyond its traditional mission of border security and revenue collection.
"Industry Day" will be held Tuesday, May 22, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. Panels will cover topics such as border security, expediting trade and travel, and intelligence and enforcement targeting.
The event was conceived as a way to educate potential contractors about CBP's evolving mission so they can develop new products or realize that existing ones sold to the agency may fit alternative applications as well, Mark Borkowski, the assistant commissioner for Technology Innovation and Acquisition, said in an interview.
The scope is much broader than typical contracting events in which potential bidders come to hear about the procurement schedule and requirements for a specific program. Customs officials, at industry's request, will give their thoughts on how they are adapting to new threats and circumstances, applying lessons learned, adopting modern business practices and setting new priorities - and how technology fits into that new direction, he said. Speakers will also be asked to address what things could further influence their thinking about policy and procedures in the future.
CBP's strategy has dramatically shifted in recent years from one of hardening the border and inspecting travelers and shipments as much as possible, to one in which risks are carefully managed by better collection and analysis of intelligence and commercial data associated with cross-border moves. Increased emphasis has also been placed on facilitating trade for legitimate travelers and shippers, instead of simply adding anti-criminal or terrorist security measures without understanding the burden on the private sector. CBP leaders now also see their mission as protecting and fostering the nation's economic security by reducing red-tape and become a customer-service oriented organization, which stands in contrast to CBP's legacy as a pure law enforcement agency.
Borkowski said companies want to understand those changes so they can line up investments and research and development to meet the agency's broad needs. By better defining the challenges, CBP hopes industry will be able to provide new tools for addressing them, he added.
One way to accomplish that is to encourage firms to think how their products might apply beyond their traditional market. A technology originally designed for border security purposes, for example, may also prove useful in trade facilitation, Borkowski said.
Similar outreach sessions could be conducted every six to nine months if the contracting community finds Tuesday's event valuable, he said.
To learn about Industry Day and to register, click here
The program will be webcast for those who are unable to attend in person. - Eric Kulisch