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Monday, September 26, 2022

CBP Miami Field Office Gets High Marks, But DHS IG Still Found Problems

To determine whether Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Miami Field Office ports of entry operations comply with CBP policies and procedures, a recent audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) determined that, “In most instances, the CBP Miami Field Office complied with CBP policies and procedures.”

However, while the IG found “minor deficiencies,” it also uncovered several disconcerting problems.

For example, the IG said it “identified instances of noncompliance with Miami Field Office’s policy for high security [cargo container] bolt seals. CBP officers use bolt seals to secure cargo containers that have been opened for inspection or other purposes. Our review showed that 63 percent of the records we reviewed for bolt seals showed instances of noncompliance with CBP’s policies and procedures.”

The IG found:

  • Files missing bolt serial numbers;
  • Files missing the names of officers and supervisors required to document changes in custody;
  • Bolt seal serial numbers were missing from CBP’s Cargo Enforcement Reporting and Tracking System; and
  • Instances in which Miami Seaport supervisors signed out bolt seals to themselves.

“Bolt seal policy contributes to the integrity of bolt seal usage,” the IG’s audit stated. Adding that, “Adherence to policy ensures the security and integrity of the cargo. The quality and integrity of the seal is critical to preventing use of cargo containers to import illicit materials and contraband, including Weapons of Mass Destruction and other terrorist devices, into the United States.”

At Port Everglades and Miami Seaport, the IG found that “32 of 384 files were missing bolt seal serial numbers,” and that “of the 32, 24 were in CBP supervisory inventory logs and 8 were in CBP officer inventory logs. According to CBP’s Seal Standards, each port must maintain CBP officer and CBP supervisory inventory logs with serial numbers as a mandatory field. In response to our finding, the Miami Field Office, on August 3, 2014, reiterated the requirement to its ports to maintain inventory log book documentation for bolt seals at ports of entry.”

The reported that, “In 206 of 384 files, neither the CBP officer nor the CBP supervisor name/signature were on the log, as required to document bolt seals changing custody. This occurred because the Miami Field Office does not have a standardized format for log books. The Miami Seaport and Port Everglades offices using bolt seals created their own supervisory log book formats, but some offices did not include the mandatory field for the supervisor’s name/signature. In response to our finding, the Miami Field Office created standardized log books for both CBP supervisors and CBP officers with mandatory fields as specified in CBP’s Seal Standards. As of August 2014, the new log books are in use at all the Miami Field Office ports of entry.”

Continuing, the IG found that, “in two instances, CBP Miami Seaport supervisors signed out bolt seals to themselves. According to the CBP’s Seal Standards, CBP supervisory logs must have a supervisor signing out bolt seals to a CBP officer. According to CBP officials, having both signatures for issuing bolt seals is not always feasible, especially in tight timeframes and situations with limited staff.”

The IG stated that, “Without proper accountability for the inventory of bolt seals at each port, there may be errors, misuse or fraud. For example, bolt seals could be used on containers with dangerous weapons or illicit contraband and allowed to enter a US port of entry without inspection. Based on our finding, the Miami Field Office issued a memorandum requiring CBP supervisors to follow additional oversight and approval procedures to mitigate risk when a CBP supervisor cannot issue a bolt seal to a CBP officer.”

The IG’s audit “found only minor deficiencies in CBP Miami Field Office operations for cargo targeting and seized asset management. For passenger screening, Miami International Airport leveraged an existing system to track passengers who have records for violations of laws or other significant events. Other Miami Field Office ports of entry could benefit from this ‘one-stop system’ that would allow them to document, monitor and report on targeting passengers in real time.”

The field office also “could improve the consistency of its recordkeeping for changes to the biometric watchlist,” the IG stated.

CBP’s Miami Field Office’s Passenger Analytical Units analyze, target and incorporate intelligence information and technology to determine whether CBP needs to further inspect inbound and outbound passengers. But using multiple systems to gather information on passengers is labor intensive. In Fiscal Year 2014, Miami International Airport leveraged the capabilities of an existing system called the Targeting Framework, which tracks passengers who have records for violations of laws or for other significant events.

“By leveraging the TargetingFramework’s capabilities,” the airport “created a one-stop system,” the IG said, noting that, “At the time of the IG’s audit, the airport was still piloting the system.”

While the Targeting Framework “is available to all ports of entry nationwide,” the IG said, “according to CBP, each port has unique needs when tracking targeted individuals from initial identification to final disposition. Thus, although Miami International Airport is able to use the Targeting Framework effectively as a one-stop system, other ports may not be able to do so,” explaining that, “Without a system to document, monitor and report passenger screening information in real time, the CBP Miami Field Office ports may fail to identify systemic issues that require national attention.”

The IG audited the Miami CBP Field Office because it “encompasses five ports that span 313 miles of Florida coastline, within which there are five seaports, including the top two cruise ship ports in the world. In addition, there are nine airports, with Miami International Airport ranking as the second busiest international US airport and the largest air cargo port for international freight among US airports.”

The IG said that, “To assist Miami Field Office ports of entry operations, we made four recommendations, which, when implemented, should improve passenger screening, agriculture safeguarding operations and cargo targeting.”

CBP concurred with all of the IG’s recommendations.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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