Complimenting CBP’s sequester response
Since the forced budget cuts took effect March 1, federal agencies in charge of overseeing trade into and out of the United States have had to make due with less.
To deal with the budget cuts, U.S. Customs, the country’s primary border agency, has essentially implemented plans for how it would operate in the wake of a natural or man-made disaster. The agency has had to eliminate overtime work and personnel will lose a day per pay period in unpaid leave starting in mid-April. Marine terminals in Southern California have already cut back gate hours by 30 minutes per shift because of the shortage of Customs and Border Protection officers to man outbound security checkpoints, according to ocean carrier OOCL.
CBP’s strategy redirects resources toward the most critical core functions at border checkpoints, such as anti-terrorism and processing perishable commodities, while reducing resources evenly across all locations for less critical functions.
Although cargo exams could take five or more days and significant delays are expected to cross land borders, trusted traders and travelers that have made upfront security investments will receive priority processing after the government furloughs kick in so port directors can direct limited resources to people and conveyances that pose more risk.
Industry members of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot programs will continue to have access to their respective CBP points of contact, including industry specialists at a handful of Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE). C-TPAT specialists and CEE staff are available to eligible companies to answer any questions about import and export compliance.
Customs said it will not divert cargo from some ports because, unlike following a natural disaster, all ports will operate with an equal amount of reduced resources.
Obtaining compliance advice and rulings on legal matters such as penalty protests may also take longer under the current budget environment, CBP said.
The agency advised importers to pre-file entry information as much as possible, as some companies involved in a simplified entry pilot already do, to give regulators the ability to conduct risk assessments and resolve outstanding issues before cargo arrives in the United States.
The communications strategy for keeping industry abreast of developments and addressing any concerns centers on weekly telephone conference calls by CBP’s Field Operations and International Trade staff with national trade associations, as well as outreach at the local port level.
For this, CBP should be applauded by shippers and their service providers for how it’s handling the self-inflicted national wounds by the White House and Congress, which will certainly make it more difficult to increase trade and grow the economy.
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