U.S. Customs and Border Protection should review and update its policies for inspecting commercial vehicles at land border ports of entry and analyze noncompliance at individual POEs to better identify and address deficiencies, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The Department of Homeland Security said it agreed with the recommendations and has initiated procedures to implement them.
CBP’s Office of Field Operations is responsible for inspecting cargo at 110 land POEs that have a combined total of 173 crossings. The GAO acknowledges that OFO has implemented processes and deployed technology to identify higher-risk vehicles and cargo and examine them at these POEs but states that many of its directives, handbooks, and other official instructions for POE inspections have not been reviewed and updated every three years (as required by the office’s own policy management handbook) and in some cases have remained unchanged for nearly two decades. As a result, some current policies do not reflect changes in technology, operating conditions, or inspection processes.
According to the report, CBP officials said they have initiated a process to modernize related handbooks, policy memoranda, and directives. However, the officials noted that this process can be time-consuming and difficult, challenges that are exacerbated by a lack of authority and resources.
The GAO also reviewed the various mechanisms CBP uses at the port, field office, and national levels to monitor compliance with inspection policies at land border POEs, including the Self-Inspection Program. The GAO concluded that the summary reports of SIP results that CBP produces each year are designed to identify systemic compliance issues to target for remediation but have not positioned CBP to determine whether it may need to take additional or alternative actions to more effectively address recurring deficiencies at individual POEs.
According to the GAO, CBP officials said port management is responsible for addressing the compliance issues of individual POEs. However, the DHS said in a response to the GAO’s recommendations that CBP plans to begin training on how to conduct the recommended analysis so that it may be conducted for the 2021 SIP results.