Container Security:

Expansion of Key Customs Programs Will Require Greater Attention to Critical Success Factors

GAO-03-770: Published: Jul 25, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 2003.

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Since September 11, 2001, concern has increased that terrorists could smuggle weapons of mass destruction in the 7 million ocean containers that arrive annually at U.S. seaports. In response to this concern, the U.S. Customs Service (Customs) implemented the Container Security Initiative (CSI) to screen for high-risk containers at overseas ports and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) to improve global supply chain security in the private sector. GAO (1) describes the purpose and elements of these new programs, (2) examines Customs' implementation of CSI and C-TPAT during the first year, and (3) assesses the extent to which Customs has focused on factors critical to the programs' long-term success and accountability.

Announced in January 2002, CSI places Customs staff at designated foreign seaports to screen containers for weapons of mass destruction. In November 2001, Customs also initiated C-TPAT, in which private companies improve the security of their supply chains in return for the reduced likelihood that their containers will be inspected for weapons of mass destruction. Customs quickly implemented both programs in the first year. It concluded bilateral arrangements with foreign governments to place Customs personnel at 24 foreign ports and deployed staff to 5 of these ports under CSI, and it enrolled more than 1,700 companies in C-TPAT. Customs is developing critical program elements intended to ensure that C-TPAT companies improve and maintain their security practices. GAO found that Customs' implementation of these programs evolved in response to challenges it encountered. Although Customs is preparing to devote significantly more resources to CSI and C-TPAT as it expands the programs, it has not taken adequate steps to incorporate factors necessary for the programs' long-term success and accountability. These factors include human capital planning, development of performance measures, and strategic planning. GAO found the following: (1) although CSI seeks to staff Customs officials at more than 30 overseas ports and C-TPAT expects to hire more than 150 additional staff, Customs has not devised systematic human capital plans to meet longterm staffing needs for both programs; (2) while Customs has created some performance measures to quantify operational activities and efforts, it has not developed measures to establish accountability and measure program achievement; and (3) in its efforts to rapidly implement the programs and enroll participants, Customs focused on short-term planning. Customs lacks a strategic plan that would allow it to establish accountability for approximately $73 million in planned expenditures for fiscal year 2004.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2002, the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rolled out a new program, called the Container Security Initiative (CSI), to address the threat that terrorists might use maritime cargo containers to ship weapons of mass destruction. In July 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Commissioner of CBP, develop a human capital plan for CSI that describes how it will recruit, train, and retain staff and identifies staffing requirements. GAO noted that CBP had focused on short-term planning and had not taken adequate steps to incorporate key factors necessary for the program's long-term success and accountability. In response to our recommendation, CBP took steps to develop a human capital plan. In April 2005, GAO reported that CBP had developed a staffing model to determine the staff needed to target containers; however, GAO noted that at some ports CBP had not been able to staff the CSI teams at the levels called for in the CSI staffing model. In addition, GAO noted that the model contributed to CBP's reliance on placing staff overseas at CSI ports. In May 2006, CBP completed a human capital plan for CSI that revised the original staffing model and adjusted it to include augmenting overseas CSI teams with targeters stationed at the National Targeting Center in the United States to support the workload at high volume ports. The plan also addresses recruiting, training and retention of staff and other human capital issues for CSI over the next 5 years.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CSI and C-TPAT achieve their objectives as they transition from smaller start-up programs to larger programs with an increasingly larger share of the Department of Homeland Security's budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security should, working with the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection and the CSI and C-TPAT program directors, develop human capital plans that clearly describe how CSI and C-TPAT will recruit, train, and retain staff to meet their growing demands as they expand to other countries and implement new program elements. These plans should include up-to-date information on CSI and C-TPAT staffing and training requirements and should be regularly used by managers to identify areas for further human capital planning, including opportunities for improving program results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2002, the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rolled out a new program, called the Container Security Initiative (CSI), to address the threat that terrorists might use maritime cargo containers to ship weapons of mass destruction. In July 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Commissioner of CBP, develop performance measures for CSI to enable the agency to assess accomplishments, make decisions, realign processes, and assign accountability. In response to our recommendation, CBP has taken steps to develop performance measures and issued them in August 2006 in its CSI 2006-2011 Strategic Plan. The plan includes measures linked to CSI goals.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CSI and C-TPAT achieve their objectives as they transition from smaller start-up programs to larger programs with an increasingly larger share of the Department of Homeland Security's budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security should, working with the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection and the CSI and C-TPAT program directors, expand efforts already initiated to develop performance measures for CSI and C-TPAT that include outcome-oriented indicators. These measures should be tangible, measurable conditions that cover key aspects of performance and should enable agencies to assess accomplishments, make decisions, realign processes, and assign accountability. Furthermore, the measures should be used to determine the future direction of these Customs programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2002, the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rolled out a new program to address the threat that terrorists might use maritime cargo containers to ship weapons of mass destruction-- the Container Security Initiative (CSI). In July 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Commissioner of CBP, develop a strategic plan for CSI. GAO noted that CBP had focused on short-term planning and had not taken adequate steps to incorporate key factors necessary for the program's long-term success and accountability. In response to our recommendation, CBP took steps to develop a strategic plan. CBP issued its initial strategic plan for CSI in February 2004, which addressed 3 of the 6 key elements as identified by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) for an agency strategic plan. In August 2006, CBP issued a strategic plan for CSI that addressed all 6 elements: (1) mission statements, (2) general goals and objectives, (3) how the goals and objectives are to be achieved, (4) how performance goals and measures are related to the general goals and objectives, (5) external factors that could affect the achievement of general goals and objectives, and (6) program evaluations.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CSI and C-TPAT achieve their objectives as they transition from smaller start-up programs to larger programs with an increasingly larger share of the Department of Homeland Security's budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security should, working with the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection and the CSI and C-TPAT program directors, develop strategic plans that clearly lay out CSI and C-TPAT goals, objectives, and detailed implementation strategies. These plans should not only address how the strategies and related resources, both financial and human, will enable Customs to secure ocean containers bound for the United States, but should also reinforce the connections between these programs' objectives and both Customs' and the Department of Homeland Security's long-term goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection

 

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