U.S. Customs Service:

Observations on Selected Operations and Program Issues

T-GGD/AIMD-00-150: Published: Apr 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 2000.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Customs Service's development of: (1) a Resource Allocation Model (RAM); (2) an Automated Commercial Environment (ACE); and (3) airline passenger personal search procedures.

GAO noted that: (1) the RAM is intended to estimate the number of inspectors and other personnel needed to process passengers and inspect cargo at all ports of entry; (2) Customs officials told GAO that they are still in the early stages of analyzing the model results and fully understanding its capabilities; (3) Customs data improvement efforts, such as the Customs Overtime and Scheduling System modifications, should reduce some concerns about the accuracy and reliability of RAM input data; (4) since 1994, Customs has tried unsuccessfully to modernize import processing by building its ACE; (5) GAO reported on the reasons for Customs' inability to produce a new import processing system and issued a series of detailed recommendations that Customs agreed to implement; (6) Customs has already taken significant actions to implement some of GAO's recommendations; (7) Customs has developed a software acquisition improvement plan aimed at Customs possessing the necessary software acquisition maturity to effectively manage its contractor; (8) by doing this, Customs will increase the likelihood of ACE being built and deployed successfully; (9) concerns have been raised about Customs' policies and procedures for selecting or "targeting" passengers for examinations and conducting personal searches, including strip-searches and x-rays; (10) of the 102,000 arriving passengers subjected to some sort of personal search, GAO reported that 95 percent were searched by inspectors for contraband or hidden weapons by patting the passenger's clothed body, 4 percent were strip-searched, and 1 percent were subjected to an x-ray exam; (11) about 3 percent of the passengers frisked or patted down had positive results, 23 percent of the strip-searches were positive, and 31 percent of the x-ray searches were positive; (12) White men and women and Black women were more likely than Black men and Hispanic men and women to be strip-searched rather than patted down or frisked, but they were less likely to be found carrying contraband; (13) Black women were 9 times more likely than White women who were U.S. citizens to be x-rayed after being frisked or patted down in fiscal year 1998; and (14) on the basis of the x-ray results, Black women who were U.S. citizens were less than half as likely to be found carrying contraband as White women who were U.S. citizens.

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