Friday, September 27, 2013
AZMEX POLICY2 26-9-13
AZMEX POLICY 2 26 SEP 2013
Note: Best quote: "So it does come down to local communities taking matters into their own hands to ensure they are successful," O'Rourke said.
Arizona left out of new port of entry staffing solution
CBP Officer Jose R. Soria waves a car through the Mariposa Port of Entry in this file photo from 2012. A program that lets border communities pay for extra port officers is not currently an option at Arizona ports like this one.
Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 8:54 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Tue Sep 24, 2013.
By Curt Prendergast
A federal program allowing border communities to put up the money to hire more customs officers may prove to be a windfall for border towns, just not any in Arizona.
Understaffing at local ports of entry is a perennial complaint of local business and political leaders, especially as the expanded Mariposa Port of Entry becomes fully operational in the coming year. The so-called "reimbursable fee agreements" pilot program could have alleviated those worries, albeit at local expense.
Four of the ports selected for the pilot program in August are in Texas, one is in Miami, and none are in Arizona, leaving local business leaders wondering if the federal government is "picking winners and losers on border trade."
"I was told by somebody in your trade community, 'Well, that's not fair,' and it's not fair," said Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) during a recent visit to Nogales to discuss redefining border security to include the economy and other considerations.
"The federal government, Congress, the administration, should get its act together and staff those ports adequately," he said. "The problem is that for the last 10 years it hasn't happened and I don't expect it to anytime in the near future."
"So it does come down to local communities taking matters into their own hands to ensure they are successful," O'Rourke said.
Arizona was left out of the pilot program because state legislators in Texas passed legislation to allow border businesses and cities to raise funds to hire CBP officers or pay for overtime. No such legislation exists in Arizona, said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
In addition, CBP selected ports of entry in Texas because most are at bridges, which simplifies the process of determining who should be charged to cross the border, Grijalva said. In Arizona, decisions would have to be made on whether to charge passenger vehicles, pedestrians, or trucks, he said.
"How is the state of Arizona, or businesses in the state of Arizona, supposed to compete?" said Bruce Bracker, chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority. In Nogales, ports of entry are understaffed by at least 200 officers, he said.
With the pilot program, "all of a sudden you have the federal government picking winners and losers on border trade," Bracker said.
How it works
Under the five-year agreements, public and private entities can request that U.S. Customs and Border Protection offer a service and then reimburse CBP for the cost, according to a CBP fact sheet.
Services that can be funded include "all Customs- and Immigration-related inspectional activities and may cover all costs, such as the salaries of additional staff, overtime expenses, and transportation costs," according to the fact sheet. In addition, facility upgrades and equipment can also be funded.
Three of the ports selected are airports, one each in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Miami. The Port of Miami, under the auspices of Miami-Dade County, also was selected.
The rest of the ports are land bridges along the Texas-Mexico border, such as the City of El Paso and the South Texas Assets Consortium, which includes ports of entry in McAllen, Laredo, Cameron County, and Rio Grande City.
The consortium also includes the City of Pharr, which sent a delegation to Rio Rico on Aug. 27 in an attempt to coax local businesses into relocating there.
Texas vs. Arizona
O'Rourke, whose district includes El Paso, said much of the recent infrastructure improvements in that city's ports of entry were funded locally. As part of the pilot program, the El Paso community decided to dedicate more than $2.5 million to hire more CBP officers and pay them overtime, he said.
That kind of money shows the difference between competing ports of entry on the border, Bracker said, noting that $2.5 million would eat up a large portion of the sales tax collected by the City of Nogales each year.
Bracker added that local industry already taxed itself to provide infrastructure, he said, citing the Single Trip Overweight Border Permit fee – which city officials say brought in about $700,000 to city coffers last fiscal year – that is meant to fund road improvements.
The pilot program also shows the different ways people understand the roles of customs officers and Border Patrol agents in border security, he said.
"The bottom line is if the federal government came to us and said, 'We can't afford Border Patrol anymore. So if you want Border Patrol in your area, you're going to have to pay for it as a community,' what do you think would be going on in this country?" Bracker asked.
"The outrage, I mean the voices would be ringing on high from all 50 states," he said.
Note: Not to mention what happens after delivery.
CBP, Coast Guard Need To Improve Controls Over Foreign Military Sales Exports
By: Anthony Kimery
09/25/2013 ( 9:43am)
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the US Coast Guard (USCG) need to improve their controls over exports related to Foreign Military Sales, said the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General (IG).
The finding was made during the IG's fiscal year 2013 Annual Performance Plan, under which the IG reviews DHS' controls and oversight of Foreign Military Sales (FMS).
Under the FMS program, the Coast Guard procures and provides defense-related articles and services to foreign governments. CBP in turn controls exports of articles related to Foreign Military Sales. In February 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) deemed Foreign Military Sales a high risk area for the federal government. DHS' Inspector General conducted its audit to determine whether CBP and Coast Guard "have adequate controls over the Foreign Military Sales export process."
The IG's audit report stated that "CBP has a process to assess the risk associated with exports and target shipments for physical inspection," but that "during this process, officers rely on potentially unverified and inaccurate information that shippers submit to an export database."
In addition, the IG reported, "according to officers at the two ports we reviewed, they did not physically inspect any Foreign Military Sales-related exports in fiscal year 2012. CBP also does not have a centralized system to track Foreign Military Sales-related exports, which increases the risk of unauthorized exports and diminishes the efficiency of the process."
"CBP's guidance to the ports for handling Foreign Military Sales-related shipments is outdated, and the component does not provide formal training to its officers on handling these exports," the IG said. And "Of the USCG contracts for Foreign Military Sales articles that we reviewed, not all specified that they were related to the program, nor did they all include Foreign Military Sales requirements."
Foreign Military Sales regulations do not require operating agencies such as the Coast Guard to verify accuracy of shipment documentation in the Automated Export System CBP uses to assess risk and target shipments for physical inspections. "Therefore," the IG's report said, "the USCG may be unaware of inaccurate Foreign Military Sales-related shipment documentation in the system."
The Inspector General made three recommendations that, "when implemented, should improve CBP's and USCG's controls over exports related to Foreign Military Sales."
Both CBP and the Coast Guard concurred with the IG's recommendations to fix the problems.
The IG noted that Congress' investigative branch, the GAO, stated in a May 2009 audit report that CBP officers did not have key information in export documentation needed to properly record the value of defense-related articles shipped under FMS Letter of Offer and Acceptance, or LOAs.
As part of the FMS process, the US Navy's International Programs Office provides the Coast Guard with a Letter of Request from a foreign government. After reviewing the request and determining the price, the Coast Guard issues a LOA that describes the goods and services to be provided and their value.
DHS' Inspector General also pointed out that GAO had noted that CBP had not updated its US Customs Control Handbook for Department of State Licenses since 2002, and was not adequately instructing its officers on tracking shipment and LOA values.
"Finally," the IG said, "CBP had not acted on GAO's 2003 recommendation to update the process for recording information on FMS-related shipments at ports because it did not have a centralized database to link records among the hundreds of ports processing such shipments."
At the time of GAO's 2009 audit, the IG said, "CBP planned to develop a new centralized system to automatically decrement the value of individual FMS-related shipments; however, at the time of our review, CBP had not developed the system."
Furthermore, the IG said "In a February 2013 report to Congress on high-risk areas of the federal government, GAO pointed out that DHS, Department of Defense and the Department of State still needed to improve internal and interagency practices to facilitate reliable shipment verification, as well as improve monitoring and administration of the FMS program."
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