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  4. Written testimony of CBP for a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing titled “Federal Government Approaches to Issuing Biometric IDs: Part II”

Written testimony of CBP Office of Field Operations Executive Director for Planning, Program, Analysis, and Evaluation Colleen Manaher for a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing titled “Federal Government Approaches to Issuing Biometric IDs: Part II”

Release Date: June 19, 2013

2154 Rayburn House Office Building


Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Connolly, Members of the Subcommittee, it is a privilege and an honor to appear before you to discuss the work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), particularly with regard to CBP’s development of the minimum standards and best practices for the issuance of cross border travel documents through the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs and the use of biometrics to secure these programs.

As America’s frontline border agency, CBP’s priority mission is to protect the American public, while facilitating lawful travel and trade. To do this, CBP has deployed a multi-layered, risk-based approach to enhance the security of the people and goods entering the United States. This layered approach to security reduces our reliance on any single point or program that could be compromised.

On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly a million travelers at our air, land, and sea ports. The volume of international air travelers increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2012 and is projected to increase 4 to 5 percent each year for the next five years1. CBP continues to address the security elements of its mission while meeting the challenge of increasing volumes of travel in air, land, and sea environments, by assessing the risk of passengers from the earliest, and furthest, possible point, and at each point in the travel continuum.

Working with our partners, CBP secures our Nation’s borders by employing and enhancing our layers of defense throughout the entire supply chain (for goods) and transit sequence (for people) – starting from their points of origin, transit to the United States, to their arrival and entry at our ports of entry. These layers rely upon increased intelligence and risk-management strategies regarding the movement and flow of both travelers and trade. Risk segmentation, separating the “knowns” from the “unknowns” allows us to enhance security by focusing more attention on stopping illegitimate trade, while at the same time facilitating legitimate travel and commerce.

More than 1.9 million people, including more than 425,000 new members this fiscal year, have enrolled in Trusted Traveler Programs, which allow expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. These trusted travelers carry credentials that meet or exceed the International Organization for Standardization security standards and exceed the best practices for protection of personal identification documents.

1 U.S. Commerce Department Forecast of Growth in International Travel to the United States Through 2016. https://2010-2014.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2012/04/23/us-commerce-department-forecasts-growth-international-travel-united-s.html

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)

In 2009, CBP implemented a key 9/11 Commission recommendation through WHTI and established the minimum requirements for cross-border travel documents with the states, tribes and Canada. This program involved a substantial technology investment in the land border environment that continues to provide both facilitation and security benefits. Today, as a result of WHTI, more than 20 million Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology-enabled travel documents have been issued. These documents are more secure, as they can be verified electronically in real-time back to the issuing authority to establish identity and citizenship; they also reduce the average vehicle processing time by 20 percent.

A direct result of the increased use of RFID-enabled secure travel documents is CBP’s capability to increase the national law enforcement query rate, including queries against the terrorist watch list, to more than 98 percent. By comparison, in 2005, CBP performed law enforcement queries in the land border environment for only 5 percent of travelers.

Overview of Trusted Traveler Programs

CBP operates four international trusted traveler programs offering expedited processing for pre-identified, lower risk populations. These programs improve security by increasing efficiencies in allocating screening resources, and facilitate legitimate trade and travel. Membership in these programs is valid for five years, and the application process, membership requirements, and standard of vetting are the same.

Applicants who voluntary participate in the program undergo the following: a biographical background check against criminal, law enforcement, customs, immigration, and terrorist indices; a 10-fingerprint law enforcement check; and a personal interview with a CBP officer. Fingerprints are checked against the FBI database for criminal history and also are run against and stored in the DHS Automated Biometric Identity System, IDENT, which is used to perform the biometric match during the primary inspection. CBP also conducts recurrent vetting checks every 24-hours. As a result of the recurring vetting, if an individual is found to no longer be eligible to participate in the program the individual’s membership will be immediately revoked and subsequently they will be notified of the revocation.

Once enrolled, applicants are issued a RFID-enabled card that identifies their record and status in CBP’s database upon arrival at a port. There are many security features on the Trusted Traveler cards. The personal data on the cards are laser engraved. The documents use a combination of printed and electronic security features. Some of the printed features can be seen, others cannot. An antenna and RFID chip embedded within the card help to verify the identity of the bearer to Customs and Border Protection Officers while optical security features help officers quickly validate that both the traveler and card are authentic.

Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI)

The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection, also referred to as the SENTRI program, offers pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into the U.S. through designated lanes at the U.S.-Mexico land border ports. In addition to the standard vetting process, and an RFID enabled card, the SENTRI program requires a vehicle or motorcycle inspection to take place. A sticker decal is issued once complete. SENTRI users have access to specific, dedicated primary lanes into the U.S.

SENTRI was first implemented at Otay Mesa, CA, in 1995, and has grown to include the ten largest southern border POEs along the U.S.-Mexico border. SENTRI members currently account for 19 percent of all cross SWB traffic. The fee for SENTRI is $122.25.


NEXUS is a bilateral program with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which offers pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited travel between the U.S. and Canada through designated lanes and kiosks at the land border and all Canadian preclearance airports, as well as in the marine environment for pleasure boaters. NEXUS identifies low-risk travelers through: a complete biographic check; an interview with a CBP officer and a CBSA officer; and a biometric (fingerprint) criminal history check.

Once identified as low-risk, applicants are enrolled in NEXUS and given a RFID-enabled card that is unique to the traveler. The card allows the traveler to use dedicated primary lanes at land border POEs reserved for NEXUS member use. At the Canadian airports that have NEXUS Air kiosks, passengers use kiosks instead of dedicated lanes; and iris scans identify low-risk travelers. NEXUS Air kiosks uses a biometric identifier (iris) in place of RFID-enabled cards like at the land border dedicated lanes. At the time of enrollment, travelers qualify for trusted traveler status in all modes of travel (air, sea and land).

In FY 2012, the average NEXUS program lane processing time, 20 seconds, was two and a half times faster than vehicles processed at general lanes crossing the northern border (general lane times along the northern border average 50 seconds per vehicle). For FY 2012, the NEXUS program lanes produced an inspection time savings equivalent to 24 CBP officers. The fee for NEXUS is $50.

Free and Secure Trade (FAST)

CBP’s Free and Secure Trade, more commonly known as FAST is the cargo equivalent of the SENTRI and NEXUS facilitative programs. Through FAST, importers, commercial carriers, truck drivers and manufacturers who enroll in the program and meet agreed upon security criteria, including participation in the C-TPAT program, are granted expedited clearance at a POE. Using electronic data transmission and transponder technology, CBP expedites clearance of approved trade participants. FAST supports a more secure supply chain and enables CBP to focus security efforts and inspections on high-risk commerce, where the attention is most needed. The fee for FAST is $50.

Global Entry (GE)

GE, CBP’s newest trusted traveler program, which launched in 2008, is aimed at facilitating low-risk travelers in the air environment. CBP designed GE for expedited clearance of pre-approved low-risk air travelers into the U.S. using automated kiosks, placed in the Federal Inspection Services area of each identified airport, allowing GE enrolled travelers to bypass queues and process through Passport Control without having to see a CBP officer. GE facilitated entry into the U.S. is especially beneficial to frequent international flyers. Currently, GE is available at Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, John Wayne Orange County, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Newark, New York (JFK), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Raleigh-Durham, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Sanford (FL), San Juan, San Diego, San Francisco, Saipan, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington Dulles airports. GE is also available at all eight Canadian preclearance sites - Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg; at two preclearance sites in Ireland - Dublin and Shannon; and two U.S. territory sites - Guam and Saipan.

GE membership is currently available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy GE benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. Additionally, in a joint arrangement with the Netherlands, CBP allows Dutch citizens to participate in GE, and U.S. citizens to participate in the Dutch trusted traveler program, Privium. A joint arrangement with South Korea allows Korean citizens to participate in GE, and U.S. citizens to participate in the South Korean Trusted Traveler program, the Smart Entry System. CBP is operating pilot programs with Germany, Qatar, and the United Kingdom, allowing limited numbers of their citizens to participate in Global Entry. Once CBP enters into a bilateral agreement, a pilot may be conducted at the request of the partner country to test the application and vetting systems of the partner country before the program is formally launched. GE members use automated kiosks located in the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) area of each program airport. Kiosk transactions are initiated by inserting the member’s travel document (passport or lawful permanent resident card) into the document reader. Through fingerprint biometrics and passport or LPR card data, the GE kiosk: validates membership eligibility; performs real time law enforcement database queries; and allows the traveler to complete CBP Declarations questions via touch screen. Upon successful completion of the GE process at the kiosk, the traveler will be issued a transaction receipt and directed to baggage claim and the exit, unless chosen for a selective or random secondary referral. Global Entry Members are also issued a card, however this is not for use of the kiosk. These cards may be used at the land borders. The cards allow GE members to make use of the NEXUS and SENTRI lanes when travelling into the U.S. via the land borders.

To date, more than 718,000 travelers have enrolled in the Global Entry program. Global Entry has reduced average wait times for Global Entry users by more than 70 percent for the participants, with more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry processed in less than five minutes. The 283 Global Entry kiosks have been used nearly 5 million times, equal to approximately 83,300 CBP inspectional processing hours. These hours are then expended on the normal passenger processing, helping to reduce overall wait times. The fee for Global entry is $100.

Costs vs Cost Savings

CBP is conducting a new fee study, expected to be complete by the end of this year, for its Trusted Traveler Programs. Once the fee study is complete, DHS will publish a Federal Register Notice, which will include a comment period. To support Trusted Traveler Programs, CBP is authorized to use approximately $6 million in appropriated funding each fiscal year. Appropriated funds are complemented with over $30M in revenues (user fee collections fluctuate due to economic factors and cycles of enrollment renewals) generated by enrollment fees. Combined resources are used to fund staff vetting applications, and equipment and maintain information systems. In addition, the cost avoidance of these programs in terms of inspectional hours saved due to the increased efficiencies and faster processing times is the equivalent of $21.6 million, or 220,860 inspectional hours saved.


To counter the threat of terrorism and secure our borders, while expeditiously facilitating legitimate trade and travel, CBP relies on a balanced mix of professional law enforcement personnel, advanced technologies and modernized facilities and infrastructure both at and between the ports of entry. With the support of Congress, CBP has made significant progress in securing the borders through a multi-layered approach using a variety of tools at our disposal. CBP will continue to work within DHS and with our federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners, to strengthen border security. We must remain vigilant and focus on building our approach to position CBP’s greatest capabilities to combat the greatest risks that exist today, to be prepared for emerging threats, and to continue to build a sophisticated approach tailored to meet the challenges of securing a 21st century border.

We are continuing to enhance and expand our trusted traveler programs, which expedite the processing of known, low-risk travelers so that we can better focus our attention on higher-risk, unknown travelers.

Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Connolly, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify about the work of CBP and our efforts in securing our borders. We look forward to answering your questions.

Last Updated: 10/06/2022
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