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CBP Commissioner Nominee Pledges to Focus on Security and Trade

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

At a Jan. 15 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, R. Gil Kerlikowske indicated that if confirmed as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection he will continue the agency’s focus on securing U.S. borders while also facilitating legitimate trade and travel. Like several of his predecessors Kerlikowske would come to CBP from a long career in law enforcement, having served as police chief in both Seattle and Buffalo and as director of national drug control policy since 2009. However, he said his experience has illustrated a close relationship between law enforcement and commerce.

“While we must never sacrifice security, it is important to understand that the goals of security and facilitation can and should be mutually reinforcing,” Kerlikowske said in prepared testimony. While CBP is responsible for preventing entry to terrorists and their weapons, enforcing immigration laws and interdicting a range of cross-border threats, its historic customs responsibilities are “equally important.” Kerlikowske added that his experience as a police chief has taught him that “law enforcement and commerce are interconnected,” that “commerce depends on a consistent, stable, and predictable environment for business, and law enforcement plays a critical role in creating and protecting those conditions.” CBP’s enforcement and regulatory activities can have significant effects on the global economy, governments and businesses, he noted, and its policies and conduct must therefore be “transparent to the American people and Congress.”

Noting comments from trade community leaders that CBP has made “real strides” in recent years

to modernize, simplify and make more uniform its trade and business processes, Kerlikowske said he intends to “build on that foundation” because “these efforts have real potential to foster economic prosperity and security.” He added that a critical part of that effort will be “CBP’s international engagement to harmonize and simplify customs practices around the world, as well as its efforts to minimize transaction costs to the greatest degree possible.”

Kerlikowske also told committee members that if confirmed the following trade-related issues will be among his priorities.

Business Processes. CBP needs to continue its efforts to transform its business processes, eliminating paperwork, expanding enrollment in trusted traveler programs and deploying technology to minimize wait times at ports of entry. With global trade projected to expand by 8% annually through 2030 and infrastructure trade projected to grow at a rate of 9% and account for over 50% of all goods traded globally, the U.S. needs to ensure that its ports are capable of helping it capitalize on these opportunities.

ACE/ITDS. CBP needs to continue to prioritize completion of the Automated Commercial Environment and the International Trade Data System, which “will establish a modern, flexible, automated foundation for the efficient transmission of data to all U.S. government agencies with a border nexus, ensuring the efficient entry and release of cargo.”

Exports. CBP needs to modernize its export process, in close collaboration with its private sector, government, and international partners, to streamline exports and foster growth for U.S. companies.

Enforcement. Kerlikowske pledged to work with Senate Finance on focusing CBP’s enforcement resources to protect U.S. producers from unfair competition, ensure that innovative national technologies and brand names are protected from threats, and protect domestic consumers from unsafe, substandard products.

Employees. CBP needs to build and retain a world class, knowledge-based trade workforce to interact effectively with the public and the trade community, and a critical part of that effort will be addressing morale challenges identified within the agency. It will therefore be a “major priority” to provide sustained leadership attention to the training, development and effective management of CBP’s employees.

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