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Integrated Trade Targeting Workshop Helps CBP to ‘Unearth Unknowns’

Release Date: 
March 18, 2019

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, while talking about military issues, once remarked how there are “unknown unknowns,” possible problems officials don’t have information on because they don’t know about those problems. When it comes to targeting cargo coming in that could be damaging to America and the public, U.S. Customs and Border Protection faces a similar dilemma.

CBP Deputy Director Robert Perez speaks with attendees of the Integrated Trade Targeting Network Mid-Year Workshop March 5 at the National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia. Photo by Donna Burton
CBP Deputy Director Robert Perez
speaks with attendees of the Integrated
Trade Targeting Network Mid-Year
Workshop March 5 at the National
Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia.
Photo by Donna Burton

“How do you unearth the unknowns?” asked CBP Deputy Director Robert Perez. “We do pretty well with identifying and working through what is before us, extrapolating from there, doing some analysis, and being able to unearth, and frankly, bring to justice and prosecute some of those cases. But how do we do better identifying what’s NOT on the radar now?”

He spoke during the kickoff of the three-day Integrated Trade Targeting Network Mid-Year Workshop March 5 at the National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. As the agency’s premier targeting forum, the workshop brought together nearly 100 of CBP’s top trade officials, including directors of field operations, assistant directors of field operations, directors, assistant directors, and many others.  Key issues discussed revolved around communication, coordination and collaboration with external partners on the agency’s trade targeting activities. Deputy Commissioner Perez said making face-to-face connections with colleagues now in this setting helps those in the group later. “Getting to know by first name, not just one another, but all of our interagency partners at the federal, state and local level, and building collaborative relationships, creating a network, so that day in and day out, you’re making investments in sharing your knowledge,” to better meet the unknown challenges of the future, he said.

While attendees were encouraged to make the new connections, they were also tasked with looking at things differently. “We need to come out of our comfort zone,” said Roland Suliveras, the National Targeting Center’s director for cargo.

In December 2013, CBP established the network to bring together all trade targeting assets to communicate, automate, standardize, train, and de-conflict trade-targeting activities to reduce redundancies and increase efficiencies. 

Lynn Fallik, the assistant director of field operations in CBP’s Houston field office, said the networking opportunities help ports of entry and the Centers of Excellence and Expertise, especially when it comes to one of the biggest concerns for operations at the ports: deconfliction, or making sure targeting operations at one port or center don’t run afoul of, duplicate efforts, or impact operations at another location.

“Instead of implementing multiple operations for the same purpose, we need to communicate with our internal and external stakeholders to create a force-multiplier effect and run one collaborative operation,” she said. “This gives us the opportunity to join forces and improve the trade targeting process, so that we can meet the agency’s goals in a more strategic and efficient manner.”

 JoAnne Colonnello, who works out of the New York Field Office as the director for the Center of Excellence and Expertise for Pharmaceuticals, Health & Chemicals, said she wants to make sure CBP moves forward in the field of targeting trade shipments.

 “Traditionally, we target post summary violations by reviewing previous transactions,” Colonnello said, “but with the new tools and this dynamic network, we need to reach forward in our targeting to find the next threat using trade intelligence.”

As he closed, Deputy Commissioner Perez encouraged attendees to take action.

“It’s a living, breathing network,” he said, adding he felt confident the group would be able to identify those unknowns, develop strategies to bridge that divide, and then take those solutions back to their locations to improve trade targeting for CBP. “This is an agency of doers; it always has been, and it remains.”

Last modified: 
March 18, 2019