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CBP, Private Industry Share Insights on Border Security Needs

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To increase dialogue with industry partners, U.S. Customs and Border Protection hosted CBP Industry Day today at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. The one-day event, "Evolving Border Security and Trade Missions: Insights and Discussions with Industry," outlined agency challenges to inform industry on how to help CBP better fulfill its mission.

The event featured three panel discussions. In the first, CBP decision makers shared with their industry counterparts how new challenges require new ways of thinking. New threats are always emerging and CBP's job is to find a way to combat them.

For instance, one relatively new tool being employed by drug smugglers is semi-submersible vessels.

"They look like inverted sailboats," said Executive Director of Mission Support Douglas Koupash of the CBP Office of Air and Marine. The submersibles are usually 65-110 feet long, travel at around 6-10 knots and can carry tons of illicit drugs. The vessels have sophisticated counter-intelligence that they use to circumvent patrols. CBP surveillance aircraft have proven to be an effective deterrent of this new threat, said Koupash.

During the first panel discussion, CBP Assistant Commissioner for Technology Innovation and Acquisition Mark Borkowski said it's important for the agency to avoid acquiring technology that fails to increase CBP's capabilities. "It's important that there is really a benefit," said Borkowski. "Don't overshoot. Be simple, accurate and quick."

Several prime messages that CBP communicated during the second panel on expediting trade and travel served to clue industry in on areas to help CBP further its mission during a period of reduced federal budgets.

"Our challenge is balancing aging equipment with declining budgets," said John Hihn, director of CBP's Interdiction Technology Branch. He said that a possible solution is "refurbishing, instead of buying new."

Increasing cost efficiency is central. "How will you help us not only invest in new technology, but make existing technology more efficient so we can use the savings on new technology?" explained Valerie Isbell, executive director of the CBP Passenger Systems Program Office.

"How can you improve our current systems, bit by bit?" asked Shonnie Lyon, deputy director of US-VISIT. "Let us know the true costs of ownership. We need industry to be upfront about costs."

The day concluded with an overview of challenges associated with CBP's intelligence and targeting tasks.

"Our task, in the simplest language, is to identify bad people and bad things before they enter the country," said Andrew Farrelly, CBP's acting director of Targeting. Doing so is a key function of the agency because it allows officers to increase time spent on people or goods of uncertain origin. In a time of lessened resources, effective targeting also allows the agency to identify which travelers it can provide expedited screening.

Donna Shaw, deputy executive director of targeting and analysis systems in CBP's Office of Information Technology, mentioned that increasingly the agency is "moving away from hard-wired offices" to wireless technologies, which could present future opportunities for industry.

Officials from CBP's internal affairs, intelligence and investigative liaison, Border Patrol and from the Department of Homeland Security's Advanced Research Projects Agency also spoke and answered questions during the afternoon session.

Last Modified: February 3, 2021