Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske reviewed his first 100 days at CBP in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on June 13 in Washington, D.C. Covering a wide range of topics, the Commissioner focused on challenges facing CBP as it fosters security and safe U.S. travel and trade.
The Commissioner recounted the positive outcomes of his meetings with international partners in South and Central America, Europe, and the Middle East. “Our unified border management system is being replicated around the world, modeled on the good work done by CBP in the U.S.,” Commissioner Kerlikowske said. “As a result, CBP and its network of partners have prevented dangerous individuals from traveling to the U.S. I’ve seen it time and time again.”
The Commissioner described the daily performance of the more than 60,000 CBP employees and explained that the agency’s leadership recognizes the value of CBP’s employees. He discussed initiatives to improve the work climate for employees and the importance of adding resources, manpower and training.
With the majority of air cargo now handled by express shippers, the Commissioner explained how CBP’s Air Cargo Advance Screening program has made a positive impact on global trade security. ACAS was co-created by CBP, the Transportation Security Administration and the express shipping industry. “It is the private-sector partnership that made this innovation possible,” he said.
The Commissioner also pointed to the success of Automated Passport Control as another example of collaboration and innovation, freeing CBP officers from administrative work to focus on high-risk travelers.
The Commissioner discussed current efforts to deal with the recent wave of unaccompanied children flowing over the Southwest border. He described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.”
“Our Border Patrol agents are doing yeoman work,” the Commissioner said. “From the moment we encounter them, we provide the children with safe housing and nutrition.”
As CBP works to safeguard the unaccompanied children, the Commissioner explained that CBP and its partner law enforcement agencies have increased efforts to address human trafficking organizations. “We are working hard to make sure that those people are apprehended, and the Department of Justice is working hard to make sure they are prosecuted,” the Commissioner said.
“We have responded to the needs of these children,” added Commissioner Kerlikowske. “Our Border Patrol agents and our CBP officers have brought in their own clothing and done so many other things.” He said he had witnessed CBP personnel dealing with diapers and baby formula. “These men and women need our support,” the Commissioner said.
Discussing use of force at CBP, the Commissioner stressed the need for openness. He noted that CBP has been criticized for a lack of transparency regarding policies and procedures, and said “about two weeks ago we began to change that” through the release of a newly revised CBP Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook and a report from the Police Executive Research Forum regarding CBP’s use of force policies, training, tactics and equipment.
The Commissioner also noted CBP has “succeeded in unimaginable ways” to ensure that lawful trade and travel continue to flourish. “People want to come to this country. Over the last four years, every year we have seen travel and trade increase,” he said. “People want to do business in this country. They want to trade in this country. This is a safe country, and CBP helps very much to make it that way.”