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In face of budget cuts, CBP provides cargo info, cuts back on travel

As the massive federal budget cuts move ahead, Customs and Border Protection moved to curtail travel for its employees and issued a framework to minimize the impact on trade.

President Obama signed an order on March 1 that implemented billions of dollars in government budget cuts.

On March 2, CBP issued a notice that said since it was redirecting all available resources to its most critical core functions, non-mission critical expenditures, such as travel and training, would be curtailed. It called the action “regrettable,” adding the new restrictions would mean CBP personnel couldn’t attend trade conferences or act as speakers in the “near to mid-term.”.

It also issued a framework aimed at minimizing the impact of the cuts on trade.

In the face of sequestration, CBP identified several areas it deemed “critical for business resumption.”

For instance, it said companies that participate in CBP partnership and modernization initiatives, like Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS), will continue to have access to their respective CBP point of contacts, including access to supply chain security specialists, account managers, and Center of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) personnel.

It said it would hold national-level weekly telephone conference calls to keep information flowing about its operations. The Office of Field Operations (OFO) and Office of International Trade (OT) Headquarters staff, coordinated through the Office of Trade Relations, will engage cargo industry stakeholders to discuss any trade issues that may be the result of sequestration, it said.

CBP also said it would continue critical anti-terror operations, including the use of Radiation Portal Monitors (RPMs) at their current rate. However, it added, it said industry stakeholders should note that there might be some delays in cargo processing.

It told shippers that diverting cargo to different ports wouldn’t help, because unlike business resumption plans after Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, all U.S. ports will be operating with reduced resources, providing no realistic gain for conveyance diversions.

The cuts tied to the sequestration will be made equally across the agency, with no preference by port of arrival, said CBP on March 1. The first, immediate cuts will reduce overtime beginning March 1st, and personnel furloughs may begin in mid-April, it said.

It said its managers at field offices and ports of entry had already conducted an in-depth analysis of their operations to identify any current activities, duties, and hours of operation that could be adjusted to mitigate the impact of the significant reductions in expenditures mandated by the sequester. It said despite those studies, “given the magnitude of the reductions, we currently estimate that there may potentially be delays up to several hours at land border crossings, passenger processing times may increase by about 50 percent, and there may be up to an additional five days added to cargo inspections at ocean ports of entry.”ed as conditions develop.