While Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) predeparture programs which analyzes traveler data and threat information to identify high-risk travelers before they board US-bound flights “have helped identify and interdict high-risk travelers, CBP has not fully evaluated the overall effectiveness of these programs using performance measures and baselines,” according to a new Government Accountability Office audit report.
GAO said, “CBP tracks some data, such as the number of travelers deemed inadmissible, but has not set baselines to determine if predeparture programs are achieving goals, consistent with best practices for performance measurement. By developing and implementing a systemof performance measures and baselines, CBP would be better positioned to assess if the programs are achieving their goals.
“CBP plans to expand its predeparture programs where possible, though several factors limit its ability to expand to all priority locations,” GAO reported, noting that, “In May 2015—after soliciting interest among foreign airport authorities and scoring interested airports using risk and other factors—CBP stated it would begin Preclearance expansion negotiations with 10 priority airports in 9 countries,” but, “As of November 2016, CBP had not completed the process required to begin operations in any locations prioritized for expansion.”
GAO found CBP “had reached agreement with one location at which Preclearance operations could begin as early as 2019.”
According to senior CBP officials interviewed by GAO, “Preclearance expansions are lengthy and complex processes because host governments and airports must be willing to allow for a Preclearance location, and CBP’s Preclearance expansion strategy relies on partnering with airports that are willing to pay for the majority of operational costs.”
CBP’s National Targeting Center (NTC) is the primary component responsible for analysis to identify and interdict high-risk travelers. It conducts traveler data matching which assesses whether travelers are high-risk by matching their information against US government databases and lists, and rules-based targeting “which enables CBP to identify unknown high-risk individuals.”
CBP operates multiple predeparture programs that use the results of NTC’s analyses to hopefully identify and interdict high-risk travelers before they board US-bound flights. CBP officers inspect all US bound travelers on precleared flights at the 15 Preclearance locations and, if deemed inadmissible, a traveler will not be permitted to board the aircraft. CBP also operates nine Immigration Advisory Program (IAP), two Joint Security Program (JSP) locations and three Regional Carrier Liaison Groups (RCLG) that allow CBP to work with foreign governments and air carrier officials to identify and interdict high-risk travelers. Based on what CBP uncovers through these programs, it may recommend that air carriers not permit potentially high-risk travelers to board US-bound flights.
GAO said, “CBP data show that it identified and interdicted over 22,000 high-risk air travelers in Fiscal Year 2015 through its predeparture programs. CBP officers at Preclearance locations determined that 10,648 of the approximately 16 million air travelers seeking admission to the United States through such locations were inadmissible. Similarly, CBP, through its IAP, JSP and RCLG locations, made 11,589 no-board recommendations to air carriers for the approximately 88 million air travelers bound for the United States from such locations.”
GAO recommended CBP develop and implement a system of performance measures and baselines to evaluate the effectiveness of its predeparture programs, and assess whether the programs are achieving their stated goals.
“CBP concurred with the recommendation and identified planned actions to address the recommendation,” GAO said.