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Lack of Reliable Data Impeding Efforts to Fix Long Waits at Southwest Border, GAO Finds

Friday, July 26, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Commercial truckers along the southwest border are unlikely to get relief from long waits until CBP improves its wait time data collection methods. Without reliable wait time data, government decision-makers have little to rely upon in designing solutions to the problem.

A recent report from the Government Accounting Office concludes that, while Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have indicated that additional staff and infrastructure improvements are needed to address long wait times at the U.S.-Mexico border, inconsistent employment of outdated manual data collection methods makes it virtually impossible for decision-makers to respond to the need.

Emphasizing that trade with Mexico is important to the U.S. economy and acknowledging the difficult task CBP has with balancing the imperatives of trade facilitation with border security, the report recommends that CBP work to develop an automated data collection system, employ the system consistently, document its staff allocation process and rationale, and develop outcome-oriented performance measures.

Report Findings. The report states that CBPs current wait time data are unreliable and limit the extent to which CBP can use this data to inform management decisions about infrastructure investment and staffing allocation. Current data gathering methods are employed inconsistently at southwest border entry points in part because the system is manual. GAO recommends that CBP explore the feasibility of automating wait time data to resolve these data integrity issues.

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