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CBP Needs Better Data on Disposition of High-Risk Imports, GAO Says

Posted February 11, 2015

Under U.S. Customs Issues

(STR Trade Report)

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office states that U.S. Customs and Border Protection needs better information on the disposition of import shipments deemed to be high-risk. Given that examining and, if appropriate, waiving high-risk shipments are critical aspects of the layered security strategy CBP is employing in lieu of complying with the statutory mandate to ensure that 100% of U.S.-bound maritime cargo containers are scanned at foreign ports, the GAO states, it is important for CBP to ensure that these practices are carried out consistently and that the results of its targeters’ actions regarding the disposition of high-risk cargo shipments are recorded accurately.

According to the report, CBP targeters are generally required to hold high-risk shipments for examination unless evidence shows that an exam can be waived per CBP policy. In particular, targeters at advance targeting units, who are responsible for reviewing shipments arriving at ports within their respective regions, can waive an exam if they determine through research that (1) the shipment falls within a predetermined category (standard exception) or (2) they can articulate why the shipment should not be considered high-risk (articulable reason), such as an error in the shipment’s data.

The GAO found that while CBP did examine the vast majority of the shipments identified as high-risk (which accounted for less than one percent of total maritime shipments arriving in the U.S. from fiscal years 2009 through 2013), its data on the disposition of these shipments are not accurate and the data overstate the number of high-risk shipments. The GAO also determined that CBP’s targeting units are inconsistently applying criteria to make waiver decisions, meaning that some targeting units may be unnecessarily holding shipments for exam while others may be waiving shipments that should be examined. Further, some targeters were unaware of the guidance on articulable reason waivers and were incorrectly documenting these waivers. As a result, CBP cannot accurately determine the extent to which articulable waivers are being issued and used judiciously per CBP policy. Click here to read more.