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  4. Written testimony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowksi for a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Balancing Prosperity and Security: Challenges for U.S. Air Travel in a 21s

Written testimony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowksi for a Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Balancing Prosperity and Security: Challenges for U.S. Air Travel in a 21st Century Global Economy”

Release Date: April 3, 2012

138 Dirksen


Chairman Landrieu, Ranking Member Coats, Vice Chairman Lautenberg, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to appear before you today to discuss the work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to secure and facilitate the flow of passengers and trade into the United States. We have created several programs specifically for this purpose, and it is my pleasure to share some of them with you today.

CBP is engaged in a series of business transformation initiatives to make our inspection processes more effective and efficient. These initiatives involve evaluating core processes, incorporating technology enhancements, assessing utilization of law enforcement staffing, and developing additional automation efforts. Above all, we remain committed to our multi-layered approach, to include:

  1. Transforming our business model—CBP is working hard to efficiently transform our processes and business models to optimize our current resources.
  2. Professionalism and Model Ports—CBP is revamping our strategies operationally to promote a more responsive workforce that makes the arrivals process easier and more welcoming.
  3. Advanced Targeting Initiatives—CBP is proactively working with our security partners to identify security risks and threats abroad before they reach our borders. Prevention of these threats is a crucial part of our strategy to ensure travel remains safe and secure.

Business Transformation

CBP has collaborated with industry partners, airlines, and airport stakeholders to identify opportunities that will promote travel to the U.S. and improve the traveler experience. We continue to implement new programs that facilitate travelers’ arrivals while making the most effective use of our resources. These programs are discussed in greater detail below.

Trusted Traveler Programs

Trusted Traveler Programs have been essential to our risk-based approach to facilitate the flow of travelers into the United States. They provide expedited immigration, customs, and agriculture processing upon arrival in the United States for pre-approved, low-risk participants through the use of secure and exclusive dedicated lanes and automated kiosks. These programs are predicated on the thorough vetting of travelers who have voluntarily applied for membership, paid a fee, and provided personal data (including biographic information, photos, and fingerprints) to CBP.

CBP officers ensure that comprehensive database checks have been conducted against terrorist watchlist records, criminal history records, active wants/warrants, previous customs, immigration, or agriculture violations; investigatory records; and other law enforcement records. Participants are vetted every 24 hours to ensure no new derogatory information has been identified, and are subject to law enforcement checks every time they use one of the program-dedicated lanes or kiosks to enter the United States.

Applicants are denied participation if any disqualifying information is uncovered during the application process, or at any time during the traveler’s membership period. Applicants may also be denied if they are suspected of being involved in any illicit activity or present a potential risk for terrorism, criminality, or smuggling.

Currently, almost 1.3 million travelers are enrolled in CBP’s four trusted traveler programs: Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), Free and Secure Trade (FAST), NEXUS, and Global Entry.

  • For travelers at our southern land border with Mexico, SENTRI provides expedited processing for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through Dedicated Commuter Lanes. CBP has developed and distributed a new, enhanced, trusted-traveler card with increased security features to all SENTRI members. SENTRI cards are Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant documents for entry into the United States by land or sea, and also provide expedited travel to the United States and Mexico.
  • FAST expedites the processing and release of approved commercial truck drivers making fully qualified trips between the United States and Canada or to the United States from Mexico. Commercial trucks using FAST lane processing must be a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) approved carrier; carrying qualifying goods destined for a C-TPAT approved importer; be driven by an individual in possession of a valid FAST-Commercial Driver Card; and have a high-security seal. On the southern border, manufacturers must also be C-TPAT approved in order for shipments to qualify for FAST release.
  • NEXUS provides expedited CBP processing for pre-approved, low-risk travelers at pre-clearance airports, land border, and seaport crossings between the United States and Canada. NEXUS cards are WHTI-compliant documents for land and sea travel, as well as air travel when traveling to and from airports using the NEXUS program.
  • Global Entry allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk air travelers upon arrival in the United States. Global Entry is available to U.S. citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, Canadian citizens and permanent residents, Dutch citizens enrolled in the Privium program, Mexican citizens, and citizens of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Qatar through limited pilot programs. In addition, CBP has entered into joint arrangements with South Korea and Panama to allow their qualifying citizens and permanent residents to participate in Global Entry.

Global Entry is an example of unprecedented partnership with private industry, airlines, and airport authorities. Pre-approved, low-risk air travelers may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at one of the 20 selected airports. Global Entry allows vetted air passengers to clear CBP inspectional processing much faster than general passenger processing. Global Entry membership now includes those travelers enrolled in NEXUS and SENTRI, and the program has surpassed 940,600 eligible users with over 4,000 daily uses. Global Entry automated kiosks have been used over 2 million times – saving over 42,400 inspectional hours that CBP has reallocated to focus on the regular traveler queues. With Global Entry, CBP is able to focus resources on travelers about whom DHS knows the least, therefore providing overall enhanced screening to the traveling public.

Last month, CBP published the Global Entry Final Rule, which makes this highly successful program permanent. The rule expands Global Entry to allow children under the age of 14 to participate, allowing more families to enjoy the benefits of the program. In 2012, CBP will expand the number of airports participating in the program to 24 airports.

Collaborative Efforts

Strong partnerships with the travel industry allow CBP to leverage different customer bases to identify frequent travelers and potential Global Entry members. We have promoted the Global Entry program using advertisements, press releases, media events, and partnerships with airlines and conducted community outreach to raise awareness of the program. Recognizing the benefits of the program, some travel providers now reimburse top-tier customers for Global Entry application fees and we are working with others to expand enrollment.

CBP also continues to work with our stakeholders to improve the inspection process in ports of entry at airports. This effort includes implementing new programs like Express Connection and One-Stop. Both of these programs work cooperatively with the air carriers and airports to expedite travel-- they reduce missed connections, increase passenger throughput, and enhance the arrival processing experience.

Express Connection is designed to facilitate the processing of travelers with closely scheduled connecting flights to reduce missed connections, and is available at eleven of the Nation’s busiest airports. Working closely with participating airlines, CBP dedicates personnel to identify and direct pre-selected travelers who can use designated Express Connection primary booths.

Through our One-Stop program, airport operators and airlines provide a streamlined processing option for those travelers who have no checked luggage. Dedicated lanes provided by CBP for One-Stop identified travelers are located at Houston (IAH) and New York City (JFK) International Airports. CBP is pleased with the initial success of the Express Connection and One-Stop programs, and is considering further expansion of each.

Our partners at TSA are applying intelligence-driven, risk-based screening methods to domestic travel to improve security and expedite travel for those passengers about whom we know the most. The TSA Pre™ initiative broadens the scope of benefits available to CBP Trusted Travelers by enabling expedited screening at dedicated lanes within TSA Pre™ airports. Going forward, CBP and TSA will continue to work together to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience for low risk travelers.

Automation and Technology

CBP is continually exploring additional automation opportunities that will provide greater efficiencies in the passenger processing environment while allowing for a more effective use of existing resources. Some changes that we have adopted range from new technologies to eliminating unnecessary paperwork, saving inspection hours for CBP officers.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a security enhancement to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that was developed pursuant to the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. ESTA is a fully automated travel authorization system used to collect information from travelers planning to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. An approved ESTA application is mandatory for all VWP travelers prior to commencing travel by air or sea to the United States. The information submitted by applicants is screened against appropriate law enforcement databases, including the terrorist watch list, to determine the eligibility of travelers to travel to the United States under the VWP, and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

Through ESTA, CBP was able to automate the I-94W form, which was previously used by over 60 percent of travelers arriving by air to the United States, and eliminate the paper form. The result is 58 percent faster processing time for travelers under the VWP. This time savings has resulted in more efficient processing in most airports and has helped CBP meet the demands of increased passenger volumes. CBP is currently working with DHS partners to automate the standard I-94 form used by all other, non-VWP visitors entering the United States.

There have also been many automation improvements in the land environment through our Land Border Initiative (LBI). Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, improved License Plate Readers, and the Vehicle Primary Client remain the key to facilitating travel by allowing traveler information to be pre-positioned for our officers and automatically queried via law enforcement databases as the vehicle approaches the primary inspection. Vehicle Primary Client is a next generation computer upgrade that allowed CBP officers to quickly verify the validity of travel documents and make determinations regarding the admissibility of persons. Simultaneously, WHTI increases the security of U.S. land borders by requiring travelers to present a securely issued travel document, which can be verified electronically in real-time, to establish identity and citizenship.

The use of RFID technology and the promotion of new RFID document options allows for the transition of travelers from less efficient to more efficient processing methods. Passenger name law enforcement queries stemming from RFID travel documents are 20 percent faster than queries conducted with a machine readable document and 60 percent faster than a manual entry with a paper document such as a birth certificate. As of February 2012, there are more than 13 million RFID-enabled documents in the hands of travelers. As part of WHTI, CBP greatly increased its use of technology in the land border environment; this technology is now integral to CBP operations, providing clear security and facilitation benefits.

Professionalism and Model Ports

CBP and our travel industry partners have worked together to improve processes for welcoming travelers into our country while maintaining the highest levels of security and professionalism. CBP has taken a proactive management approach in addressing passenger processing issues and is constantly working in partnership with airport authorities, airlines, and the travel industry to identify new ways to more efficiently facilitate the entry process.

Model Ports

The Model Ports program was created to make the entry process more streamlined, understandable, and welcoming. The program is in place at the top 20 airports by volume: Washington-Dulles, Houston (IAH), Atlanta, Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago (ORD), Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York (JFK), Orlando, Philadelphia, Sanford (FL), San Juan, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Some of those best practices of the Model Ports program include the establishment of the Passenger Service Manager (PSM) position, a key advocate for promoting traveler satisfaction. The PSM is a uniformed CBP manager able to: respond to traveler complaints or concerns; oversee issues related to travelers requiring special processing; observe overall traveler processing; address issues on site as they occur; and provide recommendations for improvement of traveler processing and professionalism. The PSM also provides training to managers, supervisors, and officers on customer service and professionalism issues; collects and analyzes reports concerning professionalism and traveler satisfaction; and promotes public awareness of the CBP mission through distribution of public information bulletins, brochures and comment cards.

There are full-time PSMs stationed at each of the 20 Model Ports. Photographs and contact information for all PSMs are prominently displayed for maximum traveler visibility and access. In partnership with airport authorities and airlines, CBP also implemented the use of special service representatives to aid in directing travelers to open CBP primary booths and ensure CBP forms are completed prior to arrival in the processing area. Under the program, we have also significantly improved signage that is clear and concise for international travelers.

CBP has installed and implemented audio and video technology in the passport primary queuing area in order to display CBP’s informational video, “Welcome to the United States ‘Simple as 1, 2, 3’,” which presents travelers with step-by-step instructions on what to expect during CBP processing. The video is subtitled in eight languages and is seen by over 25 million visitors each year. CBP also partnered with Walt Disney Corporation to create a video at our Model Ports depicting images of America that provide a warm welcome to arriving visitors and resonate with U.S. citizens returning home.

Another example of successful partnership with industry partners and stakeholders resulted in significant improvements to the facilities at the Orlando International Airport. A working group that included DHS agencies, the Port of Orlando, and private sector participants resulted in improved queuing, streamlined signage, a more welcoming interior decor, and foreign-language-speaking passenger facilitation. This local effort is considered a model for ports across the country and we are looking to highlight similar efforts in the future.

Traveler Satisfaction Survey

As a result of CBP’s commitment to improve customer service, CBP and the DHS Private Sector Office developed and deployed a traveler satisfaction survey to benchmark passenger satisfaction at the 20 Model Ports of Entry. The survey was conducted by Medforce Government Solutions (MGS), under a CBP contract, to evaluate CBP’s performance in achieving Model Port goals.

The traveler satisfaction survey for all 20 Model Ports began in October 2011 and was completed in November 2011. MGS used Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) devices to collect data from English speaking travelers; travelers speaking other languages were given paper surveys. The survey findings indicate that:


  • Nearly 90 percent of travelers agree that CBP officers are welcoming;
  • Over 90 percent of travelers agree that CBP is providing the right information to travelers, at the right time and in a hospitable manner;
  • Over 80 percent of travelers agree that CBP is creating a calm, pleasant Customs waiting area; and
  • Nearly 90 percent of travelers feel that the entry processing time is either short or reasonable.

Travelers have expressed high satisfaction with the way CBP is managing its entry process and providing timely and friendly customer service. We are still analyzing the results of this survey and working directly with industry partners to develop and maintain an ongoing survey process to maintain a feedback loop with our travelers so that improvements continue.

Aligned with the customer service survey initiative, CBP revitalized the comment card program. Comment cards are available in the CBP Areas at airports and can be filled out by travelers wishing to express their views of CBP processing. Each card is collected and the results are shared with the ports of entry, and if necessary referred for additional investigation. CBP has improved the format of the card made the cards more accessible to the traveling public, provided more analysis and feedback for the ports of entry, and taken corrective action where necessary.

Reducing Wait Times

In addition to proven improvements to the traveler experience, we closely monitor wait times for international travelers. CBP strives to process arriving travelers, regardless of the port environment, as quickly as possible while maintaining the highest standards of security.

Current statistics show that the 88 percent of travelers wait less than 45 minutes for processing and 73 percent of travelers wait less than 30 minutes for processing at airports. The national wait time average in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 was about 22 minutes.

Although CBP continues to address ways to manage wait times, other issues affect wait times, including concurrent arrivals that exceed the capacity of the airport and the need to staff multiple terminals. To address these challenges, CBP is implementing an aggressive, multi-pronged mitigation strategy to enhance air passenger facilitation over the near and mid term. The near term strategy includes: (1) more effective use of existing resources; (2) partnerships with carriers and airport authorities on facilitation measures; and (3) enhanced risk segmentation through increases in trusted traveler program membership. In the mid-term, CBP will focus on optimizing frontline staffing resources and transforming business processes. Critical elements of this strategy include: (1) transforming and reengineering current business processes; (2) implementing alternative funding strategies to expand services at requesting locations; and (3) accurately identifying staffing requirements through a rigorous, audited, Workload Staffing Model.

Our port directors identify peak processing periods well in advance based on historical data and real time operational information provided by carriers and airport authorities. With this advanced information, directors make appropriate operational adjustments, including restricting annual leave and administrative functions during peak processing periods, expanding pre-primary roving operations, utilizing cargo lanes for passenger processing as much as possible, and adjusting individual schedules and lane assignments.

The Airport Wait Time Console is used to report on primary processing passenger wait times at the top 63 air ports of entry. This data is based on measurements of time intervals between the arrival of the aircraft and the processing of the passenger on primary. The wait time for each arriving passenger is recorded, and aggregates of these wait times may be obtained based on the individual flight, class of admission, time of day, or any other data element associated with an arriving air passenger. CBP reports wait times on our public website, and we continue to refine the reporting.

The Airport Wait Time Console Real Time Flightboard utilizes live data feeds from multiple sources to create a view of passenger arrival data that allows CBP Field Operations personnel to make optimal staffing decisions. By taking into account such factors as aircraft arrival time, facility constraints, as well as passenger volume and admission class, CBP Field Operations management is able to foresee how changes in any of the elements will require corresponding adjustments to staffing in order to meet our passenger wait time goals. CBP is currently testing this program at airports such as JFK and LAX, and we expect to expand the program to additional airports later this year.

Workload Staffing Model

CBP is also developing a Workload Staffing Model (WSM), employing a rigorous, data-driven methodology for identifying staffing requirements at the air, land, and sea ports. The WSM considers all business processes required of CBPOs, the workload associated with those business processes, and the true level of effort required to effectively carry out the mission on a daily basis. The WSM identifies the suggested personnel necessary to accomplish the critical daily mission, and it also captures future staffing requirements for new or enhanced facilities and technology deployments.

Professionalism: Enhanced CBP Officer Training

CBP has also improved its training of CBP officers to ensure the highest level of professionalism. In 2008, CBP began working on a comprehensive basic training program for new officers. This new training program was launched in February 2011. The new curriculum includes three mandatory components: a 15-day pre-academy, an 89-day basic academy and a post-academy training program that ends as the trainee completes his or her probationary period.

The goal of these programs is to produce a professional law enforcement officer who possesses the skills necessary to effectively carryout CBP’s critical mission. The programs prepare trainees mentally, physically, and ethically to meet the challenges and demands of a law enforcement position and equips them with the specific skills needed to perform their duties with a high level of competence.

Partnership with Brand USA

CBP is committed to the goal of facilitating lawful travel and fully supports efforts to expand legitimate travel and tourism to the United States. In support of these efforts, CBP has worked with Brand USA (formerly the Corporation for Travel Promotion) since it was established by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. Brand USA was created for the purpose of encouraging travelers from all over the world to visit the United States of America. The public-private marketing entity was created in 2010 to work in close partnership with the travel industry maximizing the social and economic benefit of travel in communities around the country. CBP works closely with Brand USA to promote CBP programs such as ESTA and Global Entry and to identify ways of improving the traveler experience at U.S. ports of entry based on feedback from the customer satisfaction survey.

Proposal to seek Reimbursement Authority for Outlier Services

CBP believes that providing additional services that are not currently offered such as service for additional flights, new airports, or land border crossings and pre-clearance operations are in the best interest of the traveling public and economic prosperity. The current statutory limitations on CBP's authority to receive outside funding, except in narrowly defined instances, have prevented us from receiving reimbursement from private sector and international, state, and local partners. In turn, CBP has had to deny requested services or the provision of services without reimbursement. Therefore, through the FY 2013 budget request, we are seeking the passage of a proposal that provides the necessary authority to consider and approve the provision of inspectional services for full reimbursement at domestic or international airports, seaports, land border environments other than user fee facilities currently defined in 19 U.S.C. § 58(b). The underlying objective is to allow CBP to provide additional services at ports that it otherwise could not provide without reimbursement.

Advanced Targeting Initiatives

CBP has also placed a great emphasis in targeting potential security and law enforcement threats prior to their arrival in the United States and specifically, prior to boarding a U.S. bound flight through its Pre-Departure Targeting strategy. To accomplish this strategy, CBP has expanded and reorganized operations at the National Targeting Centers, enhanced the Immigration Advisory Program (IAP), increased international partnerships, and participated in new initiatives such as the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border plan.

National Targeting Center

The NTC was established in November 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks to provide advance passenger targeting, research, and coordination among numerous law enforcement and intelligence agencies on a 24/7 basis in support of the CBP anti-terrorism mission. Following the attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 in December 2009, the NTC re-engineered its targeting operations with an increased emphasis on pre-departure targeting and interdiction, outbound targeting, and the re-vetting of previously issued U.S. visas.

To increase its focus on pre-departure, the NTC not only expanded its operations significantly, but also accelerated its response time. The additional workload and time sensitive analysis required process, technical, and resource enhancements. As a result, CBP has had to maximize the effectiveness of advanced technology and information, intelligence, databases (classified, law enforcement, commercial, and open-source), domestic and international partnerships, and well-trained human resources to effectively screen, review, identify and prioritize passengers, cargo and agriculture across all international modes of transportation, inbound and outbound.

Immigration Advisory Program and Regional Carrier Liaison Groups

The Immigration Advisory Program is a partnership between DHS/CBP, foreign governments, and commercial air carriers to identify and prevent high-risk travelers who are likely to be inadmissible into the United States from boarding US-bound flights. CBP officer teams are deployed to work with foreign law enforcement and air carriers at key airports in host countries. IAP teams work collaboratively to identify high-risk passengers with targeting support from the NTC and/or an assessment of passengers and their documentation. IAP extends the zone of security beyond the physical borders; CBP officer presence in foreign locations provides the on-site capability to question and assess travelers and serve as a direct liaison with foreign authorities.

The Regional Carrier Liaison Groups (RCLG), located at airports in New York (JFK), Miami, and Honolulu, also work closely with carriers to provide information prior to passenger travel. Using various targeting methods, they prevent passengers who may be inadmissible, or who possess fraudulent documents, from traveling to the U.S. Recommendations are made to the carriers regarding suspect travelers.

The work of the IAP and RCLG has resulted in substantial savings for both carriers and the U.S. Government. The Federal Government saves costs associated with processing and detention of inadmissible persons, while carriers can avoid fines associated with bringing improperly documented aliens.


Preclearance provides for the inspection and clearance of commercial air passengers and their goods prior to departure from fifteen foreign locations in five countries in support of CBP’s extended border strategy. All mission requirements (agriculture, customs, and immigration) are completed at preclearance locations prior to departure enabling CBP to prevent inadmissible travelers and prohibited goods from entering the United States, and to protect U.S. agricultural infrastructure from foreign pests, disease and global outbreaks. Preclearance supports CBP’s initiative to extend the borders outward and is part of the DHS strategic plan to deploy technology systems overseas to detect radiological threats before they leave foreign territories.

A preclearance inspection is the same inspection an individual would experience at any United States port of entry, except it is conducted on foreign territory. As a result, the individual does not have to undergo a United States Government inspection again upon arrival in the United States. Instead, the traveler merely arrives at a United States domestic terminal facility and either connects to a United States domestic flight or leaves the airport. Passengers are afforded the benefits of making quick domestic and international connections and by having their checked luggage automatically transferred between flights by air carriers without being claimed. Meanwhile, United States airports enjoy the benefit of reduced passenger delays in the international arrival area. Conclusion

CBP is a world-class law enforcement agency – every day we are working to keep air, land, and maritime travel safe and secure, while providing professional services to our travelers. Air travel has increased by three percent in the past year, requiring more efficient processing for our travelers. As the industry is expected to grow even further in the coming year, we are positioned to respond with improved customer service and greater efficiency while engaging in techniques that identify threats before they arrive in the United States. We are holding CBP officers to a higher standard of professionalism and interpersonal conduct. Further, we will continue to take a proactive approach and engage in programs and initiatives that enhance security and expedite the flow of legitimate travel. Through business transformation, professionalism, and targeting initiatives, CBP is working to realize our goals and maintain traveler confidence that we are doing our best to keep air travel safe and secure.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to your questions.

Last Updated: 03/10/2022
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