Customs Revenue: Customs and Border Protection Needs to Improve Workforce Planning and Accountability

GAO-07-529 Published: Apr 12, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 2007.
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In forming the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there was concern that moving the U.S. Customs Service into the new DHS would diminish attention given to collection of customs revenue. In recognition of that concern, Congress required that DHS's Customs Border Protection (CBP) not reduce the staff or resources for customs revenue functions. In March 2003, CBP reported a baseline of 2,263 staff in nine customs revenue positions, and 1,006 staff in associated support positions. The SAFE Port Act required GAO to report on changes related to customs revenue functions since the formation of DHS. This report discusses staff resources, strategic workforce planning, and CBP's public reporting on customs revenue functions. GAO analyzed the number of customs revenue staff, legislatively required staffing levels, and strategic plans and annual performance reports.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Customs and Border Protection The CBP Commissioner should develop a strategic workforce plan that aligns its human capital efforts with its objectives related to performing customs revenue functions. Such a strategic workforce plan should address five principles: (1) involve top management, employees, and other stakeholders, (2) determine critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic goals, (3) develop strategies tailored to address gaps in the number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches, (4) build the capability needed to address administrative, educational, and other requirements for supporting workforce planning strategies, and (5) monitor and evaluate the agency's progress toward human capital goals and the contribution of human capital results to achieving programmatic results.
Closed – Implemented
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has adopted several documents in response to GAO?s recommendation that together contain the elements of a strategic workforce plan. In 2009 CBP issued a Resource Optimization Model that it said assists management in determining the optimal level of staff to meet the performance outcomes and goals for the agency?s trade mission. CBP also issued its Human Capital Strategy for Revenue Positions FY 2010- 2011 and CBP Trade Strategy FY 2009-2013, both of which address the principles outlined in GAO?s recommendation for a strategic workforce plan. In addition, CBP officials told us that they discuss quarterly updates on the status of customs revenue staffing to evaluate progress toward human capital goals.
United States Customs and Border Protection In order to employ good management practices and link customs revenue performance measures with agency strategic goals and objectives, the CBP Commissioner should work with the Office of Management and Budget to establish specific customs revenue performance measures and targets as well as evaluate, track, and report performance measures in annual agency Performance and Accountability Reports for congressional and public oversight of customs revenue functions.
Closed – Implemented
In response, CBP developed two new measures in fiscal year 2009 for the Department of Homeland Security's fiscal year 2010-2011 Annual Performance Plan: (1) percent of estimated revenue losses due to non-compliance with trade laws, regulations, and agreements, and (2) estimated revenue losses due to non-compliance with trade laws, regulations, and agreements (in millions). According to CBP, these two measures are currently being tracked and monitored in the DHS Future Years Homeland Security Program database system and were submitted for inclusion in the FY2011 Congressional Budget Justification.
DHS Office of Inspector General In order to improve oversight over the performance of customs revenue functions, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, while developing its annual performance plan, should identify whether areas of high risk related to customs revenue functions exist and consider initiating performance audits to explore and mitigate those risks.
Closed – Implemented
As a result of the recommendation, the DHS OIG began a broad survey of customs revenue functions to determine whether areas of high risk related to exist. In May, the OIG initiated "survey work" to identify areas of high risk that they should examine. Based on its survey work, the OIG identified processes and functions related to customs revenue and categorized them as high, medium, or low risk. Based on its work to date, OIG managers indicated they have identified potential audits they could conduct. They also stated that the OIG has already initiated a review of the operation and integration of CBP's Strategic Trade Centers. This work will focus on the functions, roles, and responsibilities of each of the Strategic Trade Centers and how their work is coordinated to meet CBP goals. The survey team is also recommending that another customs revenue audit related to cash collections be included in the fiscal year 2008 audit plan.

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