Commissioner Has First Meeting with Trade Advisory Committee in Philadelphia
When the members of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection, otherwise known as COAC, convened in Philadelphia this week, they had their first opportunity to meet with CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. The newly appointed Commissioner, who co-chaired his first COAC meeting yesterday, thanked the committee members for their public service and told them that their input was "critical and enormously appreciated."1
The Commissioner also expressed that he wanted the committee to produce concrete results. "Our work has to be about problem solving," he said. "We can take action and solve problems that seem intractable."
As proof, the new Commissioner announced a solution to a longstanding problem that brokers have encountered in waiting for the issuance of their licensing from CBP after passing the brokerage exam. To expedite the process, which generally takes more than a year, Bersin said that a new agreement regarding background checks on brokers had been made between CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He also said that he would be dedicating $1 million to support the information technology aspects of the project.
The meeting, which also was co-chaired by Timothy Skud, U.S. Department of Treasury's deputy assistant secretary of Tax, Trade, and Tariff Policy, included updates on trade programs and COAC subcommittee work. Committee members proposed recommendations and discussed concerns about current policies and regulations. For example, after spending more than a year studying potential redundancies among various government agencies, the air cargo security subcommittee developed specific recommendations pertaining to streamlining credentialing and identification requirements in the air cargo security environment.
"There were lots of lessons learned through the process," said Kim Costner Moore, assistant general manager of the Transportation Security Administration's Cargo Security Division. "The committee's work was solid."
The recommendations were passed by the full COAC committee and forwarded to CBP for consideration. The recommendations will be posted on the CBP website.
Automation was another area of keen interest among participants. CBP had asked COAC's automation subcommittee to help identify economic benefits realized by the trade community from their recent and planned investments in the Automated Commercial Environment, CBP's new import tracking and storage system. The year-long project, which included surveys conducted by the subcommittee, culminated with a final report that was presented to COAC members in Philadelphia. The survey results led COAC members to conclude that while benefits and savings were realized by companies that had implemented the new automated system, more outreach to the trade community was necessary to better explain the features of the Automated Commercial Environment's current and planned phases.
Prior to the meeting, COAC members toured two port facilities on Monday. They observed hands-on demonstrations of CBP agriculture inspection operations at the Broadway Marine Terminal in Camden, N.J., and non-intrusive inspections of seaport conveyances at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia.
"It's important for COAC members to see these facilities," said Michael Lovejoy, director of CBP's Field Operations in the region. "It gives committee members a better understanding of how a mid-sized port meets cargo security requirements and at the same time facilitates legitimate trade. A behind-the-scenes tour helps them with their recommendations to CBP."
COAC is a 20-member advisory committee that was established by Congress in 1987. The committee provides advice and recommendations to CBP and the Department of Treasury on the commercial operations of CBP and trade-related interdepartmental functions. Some of the issues that COAC focuses on include enhanced border and supply chain security, international efforts to harmonize customs practices and procedures, agriculture inspection, import safety, compliance, and modernization and automation processes used to facilitate trade.
The next COAC meeting is scheduled to be held in Detroit on August 4.