U.S. Ports of Entry:

Update on CBP Public-Private Partnership Programs

GAO-20-255R: Published: Jan 30, 2020. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 2020.

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Contact:

Rebecca S. Gambler
(202) 512-8777
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
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On a typical day, Customs and Border Protection screens more than 1.1 million people and about $7.3 billion worth of cargo entering the United States.

CBP has used public-private partnerships since 2013 to help meet the demand. Under these, public and private entities such as local governments and companies can

reimburse CBP for extra services (e.g., overtime pay)

donate to infrastructure improvements (e.g., increasing inspection capacity)

Since our March 2019 report, CBP has selected 39 additional applications for reimbursable services and approved 27 new partnership memos. CBP also entered 7 new donation partnerships in FY19.

Public-private funding helped expand an entry to inspection lanes at a land port of entry in Cameron County, Texas

Aerial view of trucks approaching screening gates

Aerial view of trucks approaching screening gates

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Rebecca S. Gambler
(202) 512-8777
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

Since GAO’s March 2019 report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continued to expand its public-private partnership programs—the Reimbursable Services Program (RSP) and Donations Acceptance Program (DAP). The RSP allows partners to reimburse CBP for providing services that exceed CBP's normal operations, such as paying overtime for CBP personnel that provide services at ports of entry outside regular business hours. The DAP enables partners to donate property or provide funding for port of entry infrastructure improvements.

  • CBP selected 39 applications for RSP partnerships in 2019 bringing the total of RSP selections to 211 since 2013. In addition, CBP and its RSP partners have executed 157 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that outline how these RSP agreements are implemented at specific Ports of Entry (POE). The majority of MOUs executed since 2013 were at air POEs and focused on freight, cargo, and traveler processing. Although the number of RSP partners increased since GAO’s March 2018 report, the growth in the total number of RSP-related CBP officer assignments, officer overtime hours, and reimbursed funds slowed during 2018 and 2019 (through early-November), following a period of growth from 2014 through 2017. One senior CBP official noted that CBP is better at addressing its CBP-wide officer staffing challenges than in prior years, and that it hired additional officers in 2018 and 2019, which may impact the number of requests for RSP services. In addition, fluctuations in travel and trade impact the overall annual number of CBP inspections, and these fluctuations may also impact the number of requests for RSP services.
  • Regarding DAP, in fiscal year 2019, CBP entered into 7 new DAP partnerships bringing the total number of agreements to 39 since fiscal year 2015. Partners span a variety of sectors such as state and local governments, private companies, and airline companies. Donations served a variety of purposes, such as expanding inspection facility infrastructure, providing biometric detection services, and providing luggage for canine training. CBP officials estimated that the total value of all DAP donations CBP has received was $219.7 million.

In response to GAO’s March 2018 recommendation, CBP developed the Alternative Funding Programs: Program Performance Management Plan in April 2018 to help evaluate RSP and DAP. GAO reviewed this plan and found that CBP implemented this recommendation, as the plan contains program goals and metrics, along with methodologies to collect and analyze various qualitative and quantitative data. Moreover, in April 2019, CBP completed its first RSP and DAP evaluation reports for calendar year 2018 and found that the agency generally met the programs’ goals and objectives. CBP’s initial evaluations of both programs using its evaluation plan also met the intent of GAO’s recommendation. According to the plan and CBP officials, the agency will evaluate both programs annually to improve and monitor the performance of the RSP and DAP. With regard to the 2018 evaluation of RSP more specifically, CBP has made, or plans to make, changes to the program based on partner survey responses such as using RSP to help build the agency’s agricultural specialist capacity and allowing for credit card payments. CBP also made changes to how the agency will evaluate DAP by adding additional objectives to better evaluate the impact of DAP’s small-scale donations.

Why GAO Did This Study

On a typical day in fiscal year 2019, CBP officers inspected over 1.1 million passengers and pedestrians and over 78,000 truck, rail, and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $7.3 billion at 328 U.S. land, sea, and air ports of entry, according to CBP. To help meet demand for CBP inspection services, since 2013, CBP has entered into public-private partnerships under RSP and DAP. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 included a provision for GAO to annually review the agreements along with the funds and donations that CBP has received under the RSP and DAP. GAO issued the first annual report in March 2018, and found that the partnerships have benefits, but that CBP could benefit from establishing an evaluation plan to assess overall program performance. Thus, GAO recommended that CBP develop and implement an evaluation plan to assess the overall performance of RSP and DAP, which CBP concurred with. GAO issued the second annual report in March 2019, which updated key information from the March 2018 report. This third annual report updates key information from the March 2019 report, and examines: (1) the status of CBP public-private partnership program agreements, including the purposes for which CBP has used the funds and donations from these agreements in fiscal year 2019; and (2) the extent that CBP has developed and implemented an evaluation plan to assess the overall performance of public-private partnership programs. GAO reviewed partnership agreements and data on program usage. GAO also reviewed CBP's documentation on program performance, and interviewed CBP officials.

For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.

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