Commissioner Marks 1st Anniversary
Sharing State of Trade with U.S. Chamber of Commerce
After a year of making trade one of his top priorities, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske marked his first anniversary at the helm of the agency by delivering a State of Trade address to business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. The address was among several speaking events the commissioner is holding with various groups including the CBP workforce as well as the travel and security industries, as part of his first anniversary activities.
Commissioner Kerlikowske, who highlighted CBP’s achievements during the last year, spoke about the critical role the agency plays in the world of trade.
“In my first year as Commissioner, I have seen firsthand how integral CBP is to our nation’s economic health and vitality, and the safety and security of the global supply chain,” he said. “In 2014, we cleared $2.5 trillion in imports, $1.6 trillion in exports. We processed 26 million cargo containers—and that was an increase of 4 percent over 2013.”
Commissioner Kerlikowske noted seeing the volume of cargo at the U.S. ports gave him a greater understanding of the complexities of the trade process and the significant challenges encountered by global businesses.
“We enforce laws for nearly 50 federal agencies. They all have equities in the trade process,” said Commissioner Kerlikowske. “Hundreds of different types of forms are required to import and export goods. The system can be time-consuming and it can be costly. That is why CBP has focused on streamlining and modernizing our processes. We are automating core capabilities to reduce redundancies and increase predictability, preparing CBP to meet the growth in international trade predicted for the next few years.”
As part of his year in review, Commissioner Kerlikowske talked about CBP’s trade transformation strategy. “We’ve really accelerated the deployment of our import/export processing system—the Automated Commercial Environment — ACE,” he said to the audience who listened intently. “Most of you realize what a huge shift this is, moving from paper-based and legacy systems to faster, modernized, and more cost-effective electronic submissions.”
The aggressive pace is being driven by an executive order signed by President Obama in 2014 to speed-up the export/import process for American businesses. The order calls for a December 2016 completion of a government-wide automated “Single Window” that will coordinate messaging from the government to the trade community. It also will reduce duplicate requests for information, allowing businesses to submit their shipping documentation just once to satisfy all federal agencies’ requirements.
The commissioner noted that one of the most important modernization efforts in the ACE cargo processing system is e-bonds. “When filers electronically transmit a bond to CBP, they get a positive response within 10 to 15 minutes,” said Commissioner Kerlikowske. “Before it was four to five days, so you can truly understand the magnitude of this change and its effect on the supply chain.”
Industry immediately recognized the benefits of e-bonds. More than 11,000 bonds were created in ACE during the first month e-bonds were available. “Today, more than 90 percent of CBP bonds are being submitted electronically,” Commissioner Kerlikowske said.
The commissioner also spoke about CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise. “The Centers are transforming the way we operate by consolidating an entire industry’s processing under the authority of one center, instead of scattering it throughout hundreds of ports,” said Commissioner Kerlikowske. The benefits of the centers are numerous including an increase in consistency and predictability for industries and a reduction in transactional costs for the trade community and CBP.
In January 2015, three of CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise began managing all post-release activities within their specific industry sectors. These Centers include electronics based in Los Angeles; pharmaceuticals, health and chemicals based in New York; and petroleum, natural gas and minerals based in Houston.
The commissioner also highlighted the filling of several key positions at CBP. Kevin McAleenan is now CBP’s deputy commissioner; Brenda Smith is the assistant commissioner of the Office of International Trade, with Sandra Bell serving as her deputy commissioner; Todd Owen is the assistant commissioner of the Office of Field Operations, with John Wagner serving as his deputy commissioner; Rich DiNucci is the executive director of Cargo and Conveyance Security; and Steve Hilsen is CBP’s lead executive for the Single Window initiative.
Another major highlight of the Commissioner’s remarks was the announcement of the 14th term Advisory Committee on Operations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, better known as COAC. The 20-member council advises the secretaries of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security on the commercial operations of CBP and related DHS and Treasury functions.
CBP’s international engagement was also discussed. “The world watches CBP closely and we’re eager to share our experiences with our foreign counterparts so that we can better align policies,” said Commissioner Kerlikowske. “To that end, we play a large role with the World Customs Organization, WCO, and their 178 member nations.”
Commissioner Kerlikowske did however point out that, “We need a stronger voice from the United States. We have the expertise. We have the credibility,” he said, leading up to his announcement that Ana Hinojosa, the deputy assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of International Affairs, was nominated as the U.S. candidate for the WCO’s director of compliance and facilitation.
The commissioner noted that during his first year with CBP he signed mutual recognition arrangements with Mexico, Israel, and Singapore. Mutual recognition arrangements, he said, are a critical tool in aligning standards with the international community. These arrangements provide a platform to exchange trusted trader information and to harmonize reciprocal supply chain security programs.
Among other achievements was a historic pre-clearance agreement between the United States and Canada signed just days ago. The agreement, which is in accordance with the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan, will facilitate legitimate trade and travel in all modes of transportation—land, rail, sea, and air—between the two countries. “It will reduce the congestion and delays and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation,” said the commissioner.
He also spoke about preparing for the future. “What’s clear to me in preparing for the future is that we need to reflect the realities of your business and the world that you exist in—the constant evolution of the supply chain,” said Commisioner Kerlikowske.
In closing, Commissioner Kerlikowske shared some of the efforts he plans on pursuing going forward. “Everything I do as the commissioner over the next several years is going to be done to increase our trade and security mission,” he said. “We want to continue to fulfill our commitment to operate a strong law enforcement organization while helping America’s businesses remain competitive in the global marketplace.”
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.