Participants in the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism are generally positive about the program’s benefits but would like to see a number of improvements, according to a recent study published by the University of Houston. Manuel Garza, CTPAT director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he plans to establish an internal task force that will review the study and develop action plans to address areas identified as needing improvement.

Now in its 20th year, CTPAT has more than 11,000 members, including importers, exporters, customs brokers, carriers, 3PLs, foreign manufacturers, and others. To be approved, companies must meet minimum security criteria across 12 categories, including risk assessment, business partners, procedural and physical security, and cyber security.

According to the report, more than half the companies responding to a survey about CTPAT said they incurred at least moderate costs in establishing physical security improvements, dedicating personnel time and training, preparing for validations or revalidations, and maintaining compliance. However, 51 percent of the respondents said the benefits of participation outweigh the costs (up from 33 percent in 2007) and another 29 percent said the costs and benefits are equal.

Among the benefits most cited in participants’ decisions to become and remain CTPAT members  are reduced supply chain disruptions, potential to be treated as trusted traders by foreign customs administrations, improved competitiveness, and enhanced brand reputation, including by demonstrating good corporate citizenship. However, the report noted that nearly two decades after CTPAT was launched members “are still seeking a standard set of metrics” to track and measure program benefits.

In addition, the report identifies a number of improvements that could be made to CTPAT.

- more formalized training (initial and recurring) for CBP’s supply chain security specialists led by industry experts and more training about CTPAT for CBP officers

- involving local CBP officers or import specialists in conducting validations

- creating validation reports with enough customization and meaningful feedback to help members enhance supply chain security while accounting for SCSS workload

- considering virtual validations for low-risk members and increasing automation in the validation process to provide more predictability and consistency

- embracing, quantifying, and marketing the program’s intangible, unofficial benefits

- finding a way to accurately measure the reduction in CBP exams for CTPAT members

For more information on CTPAT, please contact attorney Lenny Feldman at (305) 894-1011 or via email.

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