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Questions and Responses Regarding the Impact of Sequestration on Imports

1. How is CBP communicating information to stakeholders about the effects of the sequestration?

Response: CBP port management will be reaching out to advise stakeholders of any changes in port operations, including procedures for shipment specific inquiries and hours of service. Companies that participate in CBP initiatives and programs such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), Importer Self-Assessment (ISA), and Centers for Excellence and Expertise (CEE) may also reach out to CBP staff such as supply chain security specialists, account managers, and CEE personnel who may assist with inquiries.

At the national level, OFO and the Office of International Trade (OT) Headquarters staff will participate in weekly telephone conference calls, coordinated through the Office of Trade Relations, with cargo industry stakeholders to address the impacts of the sequester on imported shipments. As part of the weekly conference call, OFO, OT, and industry stakeholders will discuss modifications to this document to address impacts caused by sequestration.

2. What impact will the sequestration have on CBP radiation portal monitors (RPM) staffing?

Response: CBP will ensure that its core antiterrorism mission is not compromised. OFO will carry out its responsibilities to prevent the entry of terrorists and/or terrorist weapons into the United States, and under no circumstances will CBP abdicate or diminish our commitment to this critical aspect of our responsibilities. CBP port directors will determine the extent to which budgetary reductions will impact CBP RPM staffing hours of operation and notify trade stakeholders accordingly. The budget reductions for overtime expenses which take effect on March 1 will impact some CBP ports' ability to staff RPM locations. Once personnel furloughs commence, staffing resources will be further reduced.

3. What affect will sequestration have on CBP's ability to respond to other trade disruptions (natural disasters, labor disputes, etc.) during sequestration?

Response: CBP field locations have continuity of operation plans that provide for a response to more than one incident at a time. In the event of an additional event that results in a trade disruption, CBP will engage with industry stakeholders to coordinate an appropriate response.

4. Will there be any special procedures for conveyance diversions during sequestration?

Response: Unlike a trade disruption caused by natural events, the cuts tied to the sequestration would be made equally across the agency, with no preference by port of arrival. Since CBP ports of entry will not be closed, there will be no special procedures for conveyance diversions. Since all ports will be operating with reduced resources, diversions would likely be an expense without any realistic gain. Under existing procedures, conveyance diversions are reported to the port director.

5. Will CBP be requiring vessel masters arriving directly from foreign locations to wait until business hours to process crew and passengers?

Response: CBP port directors will be reaching out to advise stakeholders of any changes in the procedures for processing conveyances that arrive outside the hours of service.

6. What effect will the sequestration have on shipments designated for examination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

Response: OFO will continue to perform the required cargo inspections of regulated perishables with associated conditions of entry based on plant pest risks identified by USDA. CBP is working with other partner agencies (PGA) to assess the impact of those PGA's sequestration plans CBP strongly encourages continued dialogue between trade stakeholders and the local partner agency points of contact for specific information on the impacts of the sequestration.

7. Has CBP had any specific coordination with The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or other government agencies?

Response: CBP is working with each of our partner government agencies as they work through the sequestration process. On March 15, 2013, the USFWS published updated information on the impact of sequestration to overtime clearances. With a significant portion of the trade filing electronically, any issues with live shipments arriving after hours may be resolved prior to arrival.

8. Did I hear correctly that some overtime is being granted for CBP officers at port facilities? If so, what are the criteria used to make these determinations and where is this happening?

Response: The across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1, 2013 reduced overtime spending. CBP managers at the field offices and ports of entry conducted an in-depth analysis of their operations to identify any current activities, duties, and hours of operation that could be adjusted to mitigate the impact of the significant reductions in expenditures mandated by the sequester.

9. Does the passage of the Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations bill provide any flexibility for CBP with regards to cargo processing?

Response: CBP continues to assess the exact impact the Appropriations bill will have on our operations.

10. Where does CBP stand with regard to the pilot project ELMO? Is it being expanded to all ports in a reasonable time frame?

Response: CBP developed the Automated Targeting System - Mobile (ATSm) for Immigration Advisory Program (IAP) officers working at foreign airports to deliver targeting data to the IAP officers and allow for the reporting of inspection results. ATSm was funded as a passenger operations pilot. CBP has expanded the pilot as the "Enforcement Link to Mobile Operations -Cargo" (ELMO) to limited CBP locations to identify programming, communication, and reliability issues in a variety of cargo environments. The pilot has been successfully tested at a maritime cargo port for recording results of agriculture examinations that take place outside Centralized Examination Station (CES) facilities. CBP is in the process of expanding the ELMO pilot to other ports of entry.

11. How is Headquarters informing front-line, local officers about priority to be given to companies who have made a commitment to CBP partnership and automation programs? We are finding local officers who say they are not set up to give priority to some cargo over other cargo.

Response: CBP is committed to "front-of-the-line" privileges for C-TPAT shipments designated for examination. We will reinforce this commitment to our ports of entry.

12. How will CBP offer front of the line priority for trusted partners when all trucks will be stuck in the backlog created by reduced staffing at land border crossing locations?

Response: CBP is working with its NAFTA partners to pursue creative and effective solutions to manage the flow of traffic at our borders. CBP recognizes that it is not always possible to avoid land border crossings during peak congestion times, and trusted partners may experience delays in reaching primary processing booths. CBP publishes border wait times on its public website (BWT) for commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, and pedestrians. CBP now provides a mobile-friendly version of the border wait times website that is designed to work quickly on smartphones and other web-capable handheld devices. The website will detect requests from mobile devices and redirect the user to the mobile version of the website. There are also commercially available mobile applications that chart historical trends and provide users with border crossing average wait times by hour and day of the week.

13. If there are cargo release delays, will CBP consider an extension to general order time?

Response: The lay period allows merchandise or baggage regularly landed but not covered by a permit for its release to remain at the place of unlading. Where there is an entry on file for a shipment and the delay is caused by a backlog for examination, the shipment is not eligible for general order.

14. Can you tell us if the Centers for Excellence and Expertise will be impacted by sequestration?

Response: Implementation of the Centers is currently on schedule.

  • April 2013:- Base Metals in Chicago; Industrial & Manufacturing Materials in Buffalo; Machinery in Laredo

  • June 2013:- Agriculture & Prepared Products in Miami; Apparel, Footwear & Textiles in San Francisco; Consumer Products & Mass Merchandising in Atlanta

15. Importers have the potential to volunteer for CEEs; would moving entries to CEEs result in better/faster processing?

Response: The CEEs are processing post release activities such as entry summaries and post release reviews. Release and admissibility decisions are the responsibility of the port.

16. Does CBP plan to cut staffing for CEEs?

Response: There are no planned personnel cuts to the CEEs. CBP is currently staffing the CEEs with additional personnel. Temporary staffing assignments are being finalized until permanent staffing assignments are approved.

17. I have learned that many of the CBP contract employees will finish their assignments soon. Our current Automated Broker Interface (ABI) representative is one of them. Is there are succession plan for CBP ABI representatives to replace previous ABI representatives that were contract employees or is the job just falling to the next ABI representative in that particular office? This is a critical position when it comes to automation interface for the Trade.

Response: No ACE contracts are currently affected by sequestration. However, contract staff do change from time to time and CBP works closely with contracting companies to maintain service and mitigate any impacts of personnel changes.

18. How will ACE be affected?

Response: While the ACE program went into its planned Operations & Maintenance (O&M) phase in FY 2012 with no additional funds for development, CBP has worked closely with DHS to develop a funding strategy that gets us a good part of the way towards our goal of completing core trade functionality in ACE within approximately three years. CBP continues to assess the exact impact of sequestration on all of its programs.

19. What will be the impact to FY13 CBP Regulatory Audit plans? If there will be an impact, does CBP have an idea of what audits they'd pursue, stop, or delay?

Response: At this time, CBP does not have specific plans to discontinue any in process audits or cancel any planned audits. All in process audits are expected to continue; however, we anticipate that reductions in staff hours and onsite field work may prolong the audit process which, in turn, may delay the initiation of planned audits.