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Written testimony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on the Agency’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request

Release Date: 
April 17, 2013

2359 Rayburn House Office Building

Introduction

Chairman Carter, Ranking Member Price, Members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to appear before you today to discuss the work that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does in securing America’s borders. CBP, with more than 60,000 employees, is the largest, uniformed, federal law enforcement agency in the country. We are America’s frontline border security agency, the guardians of our borders, responsible for protecting the United States and the American people from the entry of dangerous goods and people. CBP’s priority mission is keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States. CBP is also responsible for securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. This includes ensuring that all persons and cargo enter the United States legally and safely through official ports of entry (POEs), preventing the illegal entry of persons and contraband into the United States at and between POEs, promoting the safe and efficient flow of commerce into the United States, and enforcing trade and tariff laws and regulations.

CBP protects approximately 7,000 miles of land borders and 95,000 miles of coastal shoreline. Operating at 329 POEs across the United States, CBP welcomes almost one million travelers by land, sea, and air, facilitating the flow of goods essential to our economy. In FY 2012, CBP facilitated more than $2.3 trillion in trade and welcomed a record 98 million air travelers, a 12-percent increase since FY 2009. CBP also collected $39.4 billion in revenue, a six-percent increase over the previous year – illustrating the critical role of CBP not only with border security, but with economic security and continued growth. Trade and travel are absolutely vital to our economy, and according to the U.S. Travel Association, one new American job is created for every 33 travelers arriving from overseas.

We would like to acknowledge and thank this committee for the consistent support and commitment you have shown to the mission and people of CBP. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of DHS and transition into the second half of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, we will outline the current status of CBP resources and demonstrate how the resources provided by Congress have been utilized more efficiently and effectively to improve lawful trade and travel and the security of our borders.

With the introduction of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Accountability process, CBP can make more informed, cross-cutting operational and resource-based decisions. We have transitioned from a budget-centric process to a planning and programming process, driven by goals and objectives, which have increased transparency through more detailed, focused budget requests.

Sequestration Impact

Before we delve into the FY 2014 Budget request, we would like to briefly speak to the impacts of sequestration. Sequestration has been disruptive to CBP, our mission, and our Nation’s security and economy. Although the FY 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act provides some additional funding for CBP and enables it to mitigate to some degree the impacts to its workforce, sequestration still requires nearly $600 million in cuts across CBP, affecting operations in the short- and long-term. While CBP remains committed to doing everything it can to minimize risks and mitigate the impact of sequestration, we have already experienced significant impacts to cross-border activities.

Reduced CBP officer (CBPO) overtime availability at our Nation’s ports has resulted in increased wait times for travelers across the country. International travelers have experienced extended wait times with some locations reporting wait times averaging between two and four hours. These automatic cuts have occurred against a backdrop of significant growth in travel and trade in all POE environments. Air travel at the major gateway airports is up by four percent, on top of a three-year increase of over 12 percent. Land border travel is up 3.6 percent through the fiscal year to date. Additionally, cargo volumes have increased in all environments over the past three years.

Delays affect the air travel environment, causing missed passenger connections, for both domestic and international flights. Reduced CBPO overtime availability at our Nation’s ports slows the movement of goods across the border and impedes CBP’s capacity to facilitate and expedite cargo, adding costs to the supply chain and diminishing our global competitiveness.

Between the POEs, sequestration has led to significant reductions in areas like CBP’s detainee transportation support contract, which increases non-law enforcement requirements for frontline Border Patrol agents. CBP has also cut operating expenses, including vehicle usage, affecting Border Patrol’s ability to respond to requests from other law enforcement entities for assistance.

Based on CBP’s funding levels as of March 1, the sequester also necessitated CBP to take steps to achieve a reduction of 21,000 flight hours for CBP’s fleet of 269 aircraft from a level of 69,000 hours to 48,000 hours, impacting CBP’s ability to provide critical aerial surveillance and operational assistance to law enforcement personnel on the ground. Based on funding provided in the FY 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, CBP will work to restore flight hours to pre-sequestration levels.

Current State of CBP and FY 2014 Highlights

Our FY 2014 Budget request supports CBP’s continued commitment to keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States, securing the border, and facilitating lawful international trade and travel. Our FY 2014 operational and budget priorities are:

  • Strengthening and optimizing resources at our Nation’s ports of entry to secure and facilitate increasing volumes of travel and trade.
  • Strengthening critical frontline capabilities and increasing awareness through investments in technology and enhancements to targeting systems.

These priorities support the continued efforts of CBP’s 21,370 Border Patrol agents (BPAs) and record 25,252 CBPOs at POEs who work 24/7 with state, local, and federal law enforcement in deterring illicit trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money, and promoting economic security by facilitating legitimate travel and trade.

Strengthening and Optimizing Resources at our Nation’s Ports of Entry

Over the past decade, CBP has strengthened its law enforcement capabilities at the POEs. In support of our evolving, complex mission, the number of CBPOs ensuring the secure flow of people and goods into the Nation has increased from 17,279 customs and immigration inspectors in 2003, to more than 21,000 CBPOs and 2,300 agriculture specialists today. The FY 2014 Budget includes several proposals to invest in the men and women on the frontlines of our 329 POEs along the border and at airports and seaports across the country. Further, the Budget will enable CBP to continue investing in technology that increases the efficiency of processing travelers at air and land ports of entry.

Increase in CBP Officer Staffing
As travel volumes continue to increase, CBP faces significant staffing challenges at our busiest ports. CBP’s FY 2014 Budget recognizes the need to maintain the highest levels of security and facilitation of trade and travel at our POEs and includes a request for 3,477 new CBPOs. Of this amount, 1,600 are requested through appropriated funding of $210 million. Our request also supports legislative changes to user fee collections that would fund approximately 1,877 additional officers. The increase in CBPOs will enhance CBP’s ability to facilitate processing of legitimate travelers and cargo, reduce wait times, and increase seizures of illegal items (guns, drugs, currency, and counterfeit goods). These new officers will also help the economy and lead to new jobs. A recent study released by the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at the University of Southern California found that an increase or decrease in staffing at ports has an impact on wait times and, therefore, on the U.S. economy. The impacts begin with changes in tourist and business travel expenditures and with changes in freight costs. These changes, in turn, translate into ripple, or multiplier, effects in port regions and the overall U.S. economy. According to their results, the 3,477 new CBPOs supported in the Budget may have an estimated impact as high as:

  • 115,000 annual jobs added;
  • $7 Billion increase in Gross Domestic product;
  • 80,000 more enforcement actions (including $140M drug seizure value increase, $9.5M currency seizure value increase, and $27M trade penalty assessment increase);
  • $8.5 million IPR seizures increase; and
  • $145 million liquidated damage assessment increase.

Increase in User Fees
User fees that support CBP travel operations have not been adjusted, in many cases, for more than a decade. The legislative changes to user fee collections, as proposed in the Budget, will further enable CBP to efficiently and effectively process the more than 350 million travelers annually ? an industry that provides nearly $150 billion in economic stimulus. CBP has proposed a $2.00 increase to both the Immigration User Fee (IUF) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) air and sea passenger user fees, as well as proportional increases in other IUF and COBRA fee categories. The IUF increase is projected to provide approximately $166 million in additional funding, supporting up to 974 additional CBPOs. The COBRA user fee increase is projected to provide approximately $194 million in additional funding, supporting up to 903 additional CBPOs, along with officer overtime and enhancements to IT systems that support inspection activities. Because these fees are set by statute, the gap between fee collections and the operations they support is growing, and the number of workforce-hours fees-support decrease each year. In future budget requests, CBP will tie these fees to the Consumer Price Index so they keep pace with the rising costs of processing international trade and travel. In addition, CBP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are evaluating financial models to achieve full cost recovery for agricultural inspectional services provided by CBP.

Reimbursable Agreements and Public-Private Partnerships
To further facilitate rising volumes of travel, and to meet the needs of our partners and stakeholders in the travel and trade industries, the FY 2014 Budget request also includes a legislative proposal for reimbursable agreements authority. This proposal will provide CBP the authority to engage in public-private partnerships to fund enhanced CBP services. The public-private partnerships are intended to fund overtime and enable CBP to expand inspection services as requested by public and private stakeholders. All of these legislative proposals will lead to a reduction in wait-times for travelers and cargo and an increase in seizures of illegal and counterfeit goods, resulting in a positive impact on the Nation’s economy.

Technology Enhancements for Facilitating Travel
CBP leverages advanced technology to enhance security operations and facilitate legitimate international travel. The FY 2014 Budget includes $19 million for investing in technology to improve processing at air and land ports of entry. Of this amount, $8 million supports the acquisition of 60 kiosks at airports and at 8 high volume pedestrian crossings. These 8 high volume sites process approximately 73 percent of the total 40 million annual pedestrian crossings. This investment will allow CBP to better facilitate legitimate travelers and focus on higher-risk passengers and cargo. The remaining $10.8 million will fund the acquisition of additional hand-held mobile devices to further speed the processing of travelers and cargo.

Sustaining Critical Frontline Capabilities

The border is more secure than ever before with historic levels of personnel, technology, and infrastructure. The Border Patrol is staffed at a higher level than at any time in its 88-year history: BPAs have doubled, from nearly 10,000 in 2004 to more than 21,000 agents today. Along the Southwest border, DHS has increased the number of law enforcement officers on the ground from approximately 9,100 BPAs in 2001 to over 18,500 today. At our Northern border, the force of 500 agents that we sustained 10 years ago has grown to more than 2,200. Law enforcement capabilities at the POEs have also been reinforced, and, as discussed above, to support our evolving, complex mission, the FY 2014 request provides for more than 3,400 additional CBPOs to expedite travel and trade and strengthen security at our nation’s ports of entry.

In addition to building our workforce, DHS has made unprecedented investments in border security infrastructure and technology, the primary driver of all land, maritime, and air domain awareness. In addition to the 651 miles of fence that we now have along the Southwest border, technology assets such as integrated camera towers, mobile surveillance units, and thermal imaging systems act as force multipliers increasing agent awareness, efficiency, and capability to respond to potential threats. As we continue to deploy border surveillance technology, particularly along the Southwest border, these investments allow CBP the flexibility to shift more BPAs from detection duties to interdiction and resolution of illegal activities on our borders. CBP’s FY 2014 Budget supports CBP’s border security mission by increasing and enhancing border security technology, tactical communications, air and marine capabilities, and targeting systems.

Border Security Technology
The FY 2014 Budget supports the continued deployment of proven, effective surveillance technology along the highest trafficked areas of the Southwest border. CBP will soon augment and upgrade our existing resources with additional deployment of integrated fixed towers (up to 50 tower sites in 6 Border Patrol Station areas of responsibility) in Arizona and upgraded Remote Video Surveillance Systems in critical focus areas along the Southwest border. In 2013, we will deploy 49 new Mobile Surveillance Capability vehicles, which will double the current number of mobile surveillance systems, greatly increasing our situational awareness along the border. Additionally, we will be incorporating other technology, to include: low-flying aircraft detection and tracking systems, maritime surveillance and data integration/data fusion capabilities, cargo supply chain security, and border surveillance tools tailored to the Southwest and Northern borders (e.g., unattended ground sensors/tripwires, camera poles, and wide area surveillance).

Tactical Communications
In addition to border surveillance and technology upgrades, CBP is pursuing vital updates to tactical communications equipment for our frontline officers and agents. The FY 2014 request includes $40 million for development and deployment of CBP’s Land Mobile Radio TACCOM systems. TACCOM systems are the primary communications lifeline for more than 44,000 agents and officers that are critical to the success of CBP missions and operations. The TACCOM program upgrades and expands legacy analog handheld radio communications to provide new digital technology with advanced encryption protection, expanded coverage and capacity, and enhanced interoperability.

Air and Marine Capabilities
CBP also employs a variety of resources in the air and maritime domains, 269 aircraft (including fixed wing, rotary, and unmanned aircraft systems), and 293 patrol and interdiction vessels. These assets provide critical aerial and maritime surveillance, interdiction, and operational assistance to our ground personnel. CBP’s Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 aircraft have been instrumental in detecting and intercepting illegal aircraft and vessels thousands of miles from the U.S. border. CBP’s FY 2014 request includes $74 million to enhance OAM’s operations and capabilities through the procurement of Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, the P-3 Service Life Extension Program, Coastal Interceptor Vessels, and sensor upgrades for tactical aircraft.

In the maritime environment, OAM’s marine assets are combined with state-of-the-art intelligence, long-range communications, and highly mobile tactical units to create a defense in depth strategy for conducting strategic law enforcement operations in the maritime domain. The FY 2014 Budget requests $3.5 million for marine vessels and will allow CBP to procure up to five additional Coastal Interceptor Vessels. In FY 2012, CBP Marine Interdiction agents conducted more than 46,000 underway hours, arrested more than 760 individuals, apprehended more than 900 migrants, and seized more than 53,000 pounds of narcotics.

Additionally, in support of OAM operations, CBP is scheduled to take over ownership of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) Program from the Department of Defense in FY 2014. TARS has assisted CBP and its legacy agencies with interdicting suspect aircraft for more than 20 years – it is a multi-mission capability that supports the Counter-Narcotics, Air Surveillance, and U.S. Air Sovereignty missions.

Targeting Systems and Capabilities
CBP employs an intelligence-based framework to direct resources to counter dynamic and evolving threats. CBP gathers and analyzes this intelligence and data to inform operational planning and to extend our borders—ensuring that our POEs are not the last line of defense, but one of many. With advanced travel information, CBP assesses risk in air, land, and sea environments at each point in the travel continuum—long before a traveler arrives at a POE. Before an international flight departs for the United States from the foreign point of origin, commercial airlines transmit passenger and crew manifest information to CBP. CBP’s National Targeting Center (NTC) reviews traveler information to identify travelers who would be determined inadmissible upon arrival.

The FY 2014 Budget supports our targeting framework with an increase of $70.5 million for additional system enhancements, including improvements to the Automated Targeting Systems (ATS) and the NTC. This will enable CBP to implement enhanced targeting capabilities that will stratify cargo and travelers according to their potential threat. Additionally, the Budget includes $13 million to fund the initial cost of consolidating CBP’s targeting centers to better meet mission needs, including strategic co-location of appropriate groups to improve effectiveness.

Improvements in targeting lead to greater efficiencies (broader functionality, time savings, and improved accuracy) in the field and allow CBP to focus on higher-risk passengers and cargo. Increased system functionality in core areas throughout the land, passenger and cargo modules plays a critical role in increasing the identification and tracking down known and suspected terrorists, terrorist weapons, and transnational crime in the country of origin for passenger travel and cargo shipments with foreign partners. Building on this history of innovation in order to develop new capabilities in support of targeting and operations will be a critical factor in taking the CBP law enforcement targeting enterprise to the next level.

CBP will continue enhancing and improving the ATS to support efforts to target and identify known and unknown threats to the homeland. The Budget supports time-sensitive technical requirements, continued technical support for maintenance of the targeting framework, advanced targeting capabilities, and ATS hardware and software upgrades.

In the cargo environment, receiving advanced shipment information allows CBP to assess the risk of cargo before it reaches a port. Since 2009, the Importer Security Filing (ISF) and other regulations have required importers to supply CBP with an electronically filed ISF 24 hours before lading for cargo shipments that will be arriving into the United States by vessel. These regulations increase CBP’s ability to assess the scope and accuracy of information gathered on goods, conveyances, and entities involved in the shipment of cargo to the United States via vessel. To augment these regulations the Budget includes $3.3 million for the Single Transaction Bond Centralization Initiative. CBP continues to make improvements to increase collections of customs revenue. Automation and centralization of these bonds will improve current revenue collection procedures, consistent with recommendations made by General Accountability Office.

Building on Past Progress

This deployment of resources over the past ten years has, by every measure, led to significant progress along the border. In FY 2012, Border Patrol apprehension activity remained at a historic low, with apprehensions in California, Arizona, and New Mexico continuing a downward trend. In FY 2012 apprehensions were 78 percent below their peak in 2000, and down 50 percent from FY 2008. At POEs in FY 2012, CBPOs arrested nearly 7,700 people wanted for serious crimes, including murder, rape, assault, and robbery. Officers prevented nearly 145,000 inadmissible aliens from entering the United States. Collectively, CBP’s National Targeting Center and Immigration Advisory Program prevented 4,199 high-risk travelers from boarding flights destined for the United States, an increase of 32 percent compared to FY 2011. From FYs 2009 to 2012, CBP seized 71 percent more currency, 39 percent more drugs, and 189 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to FYs 2006 to 2008. Nationwide, CBPOs and agents seized more than 4.2 million pounds of narcotics and more than $100 million in unreported currency through targeted enforcement operations.

In FY 2012, in the air and marine environment, P-3 crews were involved in the interdiction of more than 117,000 pounds of cocaine and nearly 13,000 pounds of marijuana. In the first quarter of 2013 P-3 crews have been involved in the interdiction of more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine. Combined air and surface operations by CBP, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy along the maritime drug lanes from South America to southern Mexico and the coastal approaches to the United States have been instrumental in preventing bulk drugs from ultimately reaching the United States. Additionally, OAM’s tactical air assets flew over 81,000 hours in support of border security operations, as well as investigative support missions, which resulted in more than 1,600 arrests, over 64,000 migrant apprehensions, and the seizure of more than 900,000 pounds of illegal narcotics.

Path Forward

Today, our borders are more secure, and our border communities are among the safest communities in our country. Despite these improvements, however, our immigration system remains broken and outdated. The Department stands ready to implement common-sense immigration reform that would continue investments in border security, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers, improve the legal immigration system for employment-sponsored and family-sponsored immigrants, and establish a responsible pathway to earned citizenship. Comprehensive immigration reform will help us continue to build on this progress and strengthen border security by providing additional tools and enabling DHS to further focus existing resources on preventing the entry of criminals, human smugglers, and traffickers, and on national security threats.

Conclusion

We want to thank the Subcommittee for the strong support of CBP. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and we look forward to your questions.

Review Date: 
April 17, 2013
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