(CBP photo by James Tourtellotte)

CBP Air and Marine Operations Tailors 2030 Goals Around Workforce, Safety, Acquisition

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations laid out its Vision and Strategy 2030 to better navigate a landscape of emerging threats while juggling the challenges of recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, increasing operational effectiveness while putting a spotlight on safety, improving public relations and integrating business and resource functions across AMO.

The document sets out to “provide AMO with a unified framework to guide the development of policies, operational requirements, resource planning, and training, acquire and maintain a fleet of aircraft and vessels, and set organizational priorities to ensure accomplishment of AMO’s strategic goals and objectives.”

“As momentum builds around the goals and objectives, AMO will better accomplish the mission and, over time, move closer to accomplishing the vision,” predicts the strategy.

Currently, AMO has about 1,650 employees working in 74 locations across the Northern, Southwest, and Southeast Regions; they’re equipped with 280 vessels and 250 aircraft, conducting not only enforcement operations but rescue and disaster response.

To draft the new document, AMO’s Vision 2025 strategy was evaluated for relevancy to the current operational environment, the agency said, with strengths and opportunities for improvement identified.

“AMO Vision and Strategy 2030 highlights the importance of our people operating together — safely, effectively, and proactively — to meet evolving threats with increased emphasis on domain awareness, partnerships, and intelligence, as well as continuing joint operations and exercises,” said AMO Executive Assistant Commissioner Edward Young.

The strategy, Young added, is “ambitious and will require the unified focus of our entire organization, as well as the ongoing support of our partners.”

AMO’s mission areas include aviation and maritime law enforcement utilizing domain awareness concentrated on border security, including human and contraband smuggling; extended border and foreign operations with U.S. and international partners in source and transit zones; and contingency and national security operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to terror threat response.

“There are common risks across every region; these include personnel and asset shortages, drug trafficking, human smuggling, maritime smuggling, natural disasters, and gaps in air and maritime domain awareness. Sophisticated smugglers use go-fast vessels, air smuggling, and other elusive travel methods that allow terrorists, human smugglers, drug traffickers, and transnational criminal organizations to evade border enforcement along the nearly 6,000 miles of land border and 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States,” the strategy states.

“To detect and monitor illicit activity transiting across air, maritime, and land borders, the gaps in air and maritime domain awareness across all of AMO’s operational environments need to be closed. An increase in personnel and assets across all the AMO regions would improve identification, response, deterrence, and interdiction of these threats to our nation.”

Among the regionally specific threats are those to major events and landmarks in the northeast, fenceless ports of entry in rural areas along the Canadian border, coastal community entry points in the Gulf of Mexico, and UAS or ultralight aircraft threats in the southwest.

AMO recognizes that it’s trying to recruit from a competitive talent pool at a time when the aviation industry is experiencing global personnel shortages and there are “changing social views on law enforcement careers.”

The strategy vows to “continue to transform recruiting, streamline, and improve retention to ensure staffing levels meet mission requirements,” encourage wellness and work-life balance, and use “cross-training and leadership development programs at appropriate levels” to “ensure our employees have the ability to acquire diverse skills and experiences required for advancement.”

AMO also wants to fully integrate a Safety Management System with the pillars of policy, risk management, assurance and promotion. “AMO’s SMS framework concentrates on controlling processes and structures that impact safety, instead of corrective remedial actions after accidents takes place. AMO will focus on fully implementing SMS as self-sustaining and ingrained across the organization.”

Also on the safety front, AMO “will collaborate as necessary with CBP’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to aggressively pursue standardization of platforms, training, technology, and infrastructure in an effort to improve risk mitigation.”

In the operations space, the strategy promotes stronger partnerships with CBP, federal, state, local and international partners, as well as industry, with a focus on interoperability and timely intel sharing while closing domain-awareness gaps.

“Advancement towards persistent wide-area surveillance will increase understanding of the threat environment and ultimately maximize detection, interdiction, and disruption of illicit activities,” the strategy continued. “…The domain awareness network will explore and integrate modern sensor technologies; network foreign and domestic sources of information; and develop surveillance requirements for a persistent and complete awareness of the air and maritime domains.”

AMO aims to expand intelligence gathering, processing, and sharing while fostering “a unified environment in which all operational personnel work together to address threats and clearly understand their role in CBP’s intelligence cycle.” Improvements in real-time information sharing would produce a network “available to all appropriate personnel, partners, and stakeholders” to “collaborate on developing a common operating picture for the air and maritime domains.” Operations would also put a focus on assessing the performance of emerging technologies.

On the integration front, AMO “will establish an integrated strategic resource management framework to provide our people with the assets, equipment, training and general support needed to carry out mission areas” and “develop a balanced approach to articulate metrics for mission impact and success.”

“AMO must further define and prioritize our operational needs with an organization-wide view based on input from operators and external stakeholders. These needs must be translated into required capabilities, and convey through the acquisition process,” the document states. “Additionally, as disruptive technologies quickly emerge, it is critical that AMO remain leaders in innovation. As such, AMO will pursue technologies with significant law enforcement potential, independently and together with partners such as CBP components and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.”

This technology could include unmanned marine and air systems, as well as platforms to help AMO integrate communications. While fostering and deploying new innovation, AMO will be “aggressively pursuing opportunities for efficiency and standardization to improve the maintenance and sustainment of our fleet.”

AMO also wants to “develop and fully integrate a structured approach to internal and external communications that ensures accurate and consistent information is conveyed to target audiences using their preferred channels,” with the intent of building awareness of who they are and what they do.

As far as improving internal communications, with an eye on improving information sharing and morale, “approaches will account for tailoring of communications based on geographical locations and position types with consistent top-down messaging and methods for feedback accessible to employees at all levels.”

Progress on the 2030 goals will be reviewed at the end of each year. “AMO Vision and Strategy 2030 reaffirms the need to remain adaptable in response to emerging issues,” concluded the report. “Overall, this strategy is the roadmap for meeting the future head-on.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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