Acting Commissioner Provides Progress Report on CBP Trade Initiatives
When U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski addressed hundreds of trade business leaders June 17 at the American Association of Exporters and Importers 92nd Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., he spoke about progress. "We've learned a lot since the events of Sept. 11. We've come a long way in envisioning what an efficient and secure border looks like and what it means to our economy and to your business," said Winkowski, the keynote speaker at AAEI's opening day luncheon.
"Our challenge today is taking what we've learned in the past 10 years to help institutionalize global standards and harmonized processes," he said. "One of the big lessons we learned is that it's all done in partnership because all trade is global."
With that as his premise, Winkowski told the packed audience that he wanted to give them a progress report, highlighting three key programs that CBP is working on with the private sector-the Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot, or ACAS; the Centers of Excellence and Expertise, and the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE.
"Together, with our partners, we've accomplished a lot," said Winkowski. "Since we spoke to you last year, we've opened 10 Centers of Excellence and Expertise. We've worked with brokers on education requirements and streamlined the licensing process." And he said, "we've introduced a new concept for developing ACE-Agile software development," which focuses on delivering small pieces of functionality within CBP's cargo processing system.
Winkowski cited other major achievements including: the launch of a simplified entry cargo processing pilot initiated in the air transportation mode; the signing of a memorandum of intent that will lead to a unified U.S. government at the border; and CBP's ability to meet some budget challenges by developing a resource optimization strategy and continuing to transform the way the agency does business.
As part of a more in-depth discussion about CBP's initiatives, Winkowski noted that ACAS was probably the best example of partnership. In October 2009, "when authorities discovered two packages from Yemen containing explosive devices, the relationships we had built over the last 10 years enabled us to quickly contact our friends in the air cargo industry, Transportation Security Administration and overseas to assemble what is now known as Air Cargo Advance Screening or ACAS."
Since the pilot began in December 2010, ACAS has processed more than 80 million shipments from 189 countries, representing about 82 percent of all inbound international air cargo.
"We see the international harmonization of future air cargo security standards and guidelines as an absolute priority," said Winkowski. "It's important in a global environment to ensure that security standards will not disrupt the flow of legitimate commerce....Our vision is that ACAS will eventually lead to international standards for air cargo."
The Centers of Excellence and Expertise was the second initiative that Winkowski discussed. The centers, which are based around the country and virtual in nature, are industry specific and designed to provide consistency and predictability to the trade community. They are the centralized processing hubs for entry summaries and post-release activities for participating importers. The Centers of Excellence and Expertise also serve as a resource for the industry for resolution of trade compliance issues. "These centers are moving us toward the future of trade processing," said Winkowski. "We believe they will reduce the cost of doing business."
On June 3, the last three of the 10 centers opened. These included a center for agriculture and prepared products based in Miami; a center for apparel, footwear, and textiles in San Francisco; and a center for consumer products and mass merchandising in Atlanta.
In regards to ACE, the agency's automated cargo processing system, Winkowski said that CBP had developed a plan for the completion of core trade processing capabilities in ACE within approximately three years. "The proposed date for mandatory transition to ACE is at the end of 2016," he said.
"We are committed to working closely with the trade community to ensure that we are designing processes for the 21st century and developing technology that meets the need of all ACE stakeholders," said Winkowski. For example, he explained, "interactions between CBP and other government agencies will be automated to enable near-real time decision making, reducing costs for business and government."
Winkowski also pointed out that the agency is using the Agile software development process to re-engineer the existing automated export system and lay the foundation for automated export processing in ACE.
On a closing note, Winkowski asked for the AAEI members' support and assistance. "We are well on our way to accomplishing safer, faster, more compliant and harmonized trade," he said. "But the only way we're going to accomplish this is if we do it together and work with the international communities around the world."
At the opening of the AAEI conference, a CBP panel provided updates on the agency's programs. The panel, moderated by Maria Luisa Boyce, CBP's senior advisor for trade and public engagement, included Phil Landfried, executive director of CBP's Cargo Systems Program Office; Bill Delansky, CBP's export system development business owner; John Leonard, acting executive director of CBP's trade policy and programs; and Ted Clifton, CBP's acting director for import exports.
Later that day, Winkowski addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce National Security Task Force on similar topics at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.