Cargo shippers and international passengers at a handful of ports of entry could see fewer lines to clear U.S. Customs thanks to five localities that have stepped up and offered to pay overtime so the budget-strapped agency can operate longer hours or add manpower during regular shifts.
The agency has been under pressure to maintain adequate staffing at ports of entry as it takes on additional mission requirements, border facilities expand in size, inflation undermines the value of user fees set in statute, and trade and travel volumes grow.
Customs and Border Protection on Thursday finalized five public-private partnership agreements that allow it to be reimbursed for providing new or enhanced services in support of expanded trade and travel.
The entities that will augment CBP's budget are the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; the city of El Paso, Texas; the South Texas Assets Consortium; the city of Houston Airport System; and Miami-Dade County.
Miami's contribution will cover CBP operations at the seaport and Miami International Airport, and the beefed up resources on the Texas land border are for commercial as well as passenger checkpoints, spokeswoman Jenny Burke said.
The authority for local governments to reimburse CBP was included in the omnibus appropriations bill enacted in the spring to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2013. The concept is part of CBP's new Resource Optimization Strategy
, which focuses on modernizing existing business processes, using a more sophisticated model for identifying staffing requirements and exploring alternative funding strategies.
As part of President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2014, CBP asked Congress to remove restrictions on its ability to receive outside funding from public-private sector organizations for border services at both domestic and foreign locations. Reimbursements are only for costs incurred above and beyond any user fees collected in association with the service provided to avoid double payment.
CBP said the reimbursable services applications were reviewed and ranked based on criteria that included impact on current CBP operations, health and safety issues, community and economic benefits, and the feasibility of instituting the agreements in a timely manner.
The deadline to finalize the negotiations with the five applicants is Dec. 31.