Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Improved Planning Needed to Strengthen Trade Enforcement

In a report released yesterday, the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") found that Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") generally had not met the staffing levels set by Congress for trade positions and that these shortfalls could impact CBP's ability to effectively enforce trade laws (e.g., fewer cargo inspections).

Over the past 5 fiscal years, CBP generally has not met the minimum staffing levels set by Congress for four of nine positions that perform customs revenue functions, and it generally has not met the optimal staffing level targets identified by the agency for these positions. Staffing shortfalls can impact CBP's ability to enforce trade effectively, for example, by leading to reduced compliance audits and decreased cargo inspections, according to CBP officials. CBP cited several challenges to filling staffing gaps, including that hiring for trade positions is not an agency-wide priority. Contrary to leading practices in human capital management, CBP has not articulated how it plans to reach its staffing targets for trade positions over the long term, generally conducting its hiring on an ad hoc basis.

To strengthen its trade enforcement efforts, the GAO recommended that CBP should (1) include performance targets in its plans covering high-risk issue areas, and (2) develop a long-term hiring plan specific to trade positions that articulates how it will reach its staffing targets. CBP concurred with both recommendations.

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