House bill aims to upgrade CTPAT –

American Shipper

By Chris Gillis | Jul 15, 2019

Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins introduced legislation to reauthorize and enhance the functionality of the CBP’s Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Program.

Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., who serves as the ranking member of the House Border Security, Facilitation and Operations Subcommittee, has introduced legislation to reauthorize and upgrade Customs and Border Protection’s Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Program (CTPAT).

Higgins said his CTPAT reauthorization bill (H.R. 3719) would reauthorize the CBP program for the first time in 13 years, increase information sharing and collaboration with the industry and improve program management. “The reforms in our legislation ensure efficient trade and provide CBP with greater authority to enforce the program’s security criteria,” Higgins said in a statement. CBP created CTPAT shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States as part of a layered approach to international supply chain security. The voluntary program was further established as statute in the 2006 Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act.

To participate in C-TPAT, companies complete a comprehensive security questionnaire for CBP and agree to develop programs to enhance security throughout their supply chains. CBP agrees to provide CTPAT participants with faster cargo clearances and fewer exams. More than 11,400 importers, customs brokers and freight forwarders, and carriers are currently enrolled in the program.

However, many CTPAT participants complain they have not realized notable increases in the speed of their cargo clearances or decreases in detentions. In recent years, CBP has proposed changes to CTPAT’s minimum security criteria to improve the efficiency of the program and increase participation. Higgins said his CTPAT reauthorization bill has bipartisan support in the House Security Committee, including from ranking committee member Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; former committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Vice Chairman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; and House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.

“Pre-vetting companies will ensure that our ports of entry can continue processing cargo through our borders efficiently and securely,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I am proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan piece of legislation that will increase security at our southern border while reducing wait times at our ports of entry.”

Specifically, Higgins’ 2019 CTPAT Reauthorization Act bill would:

  • Reauthorize the CTPAT program to “reflect current industry practices and threats to the international supply chain;”
  • Expand CTPAT eligibility to importers, exporters, customs brokers, forwarders and carrier and offer the agency the “flexibility” to add other international supply chain participants;
  • Require CBP to consult with industry when implementing new or updated security criteria;
  • Ensure CTPAT participants receive “quantifiable benefits,” including shorter wait times and fewer inspections at ports of entry for their participation;
  • Expand “tangible and specific benefits” to all participants during CBP’s CTPAT vetting and site visit validation process;
  • Permit CBP to suspend or remove participants from CTPAT for failing to meet minimum security criteria, providing false or misleading information, breaking the law or posing a threat to national security;
  • Offer protections to industry when appealing a suspension or removal from the program;
  • Formalize a process for recurring recertification and revalidation of security practices by CBP;
  • And allow CBP to accept a site visit conducted by a cleared foreign government under a mutual recognition agreement for continued participation in CTPAT.

Industry groups, such as the Border Trade Alliance (BTA) and Express Association of America (EAA), have offered their endorsements of Higgins’ CTPAT Reauthorization Act bill.  “This legislation makes important updates to the program to make it reflective of today’s trade environment while ensuring that tangible benefits to participants are not diminished,” wrote BTA President Britton Clarke and Chair Paola Avila in a letter to Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson.

Clarke and Avila said the bill’s proposed enhancements to CTPAT will “ensure that the program continues to attract new partners and retains existing ones. If the program benefits begin to wane, then the effectiveness of CTPAT will as well.” EAA, which represents the three largest express delivery companies in the world — DHL, FedEx and UPS — supports the legislation and called for its “rapid passage” by Congress. The association especially endorses the CTPAT reauthorization bill’s measure to extend Tier 3 CTPAT membership to entities other than just importers.

“EAA members are among the most secure and compliant companies in the world and have been strong supporters of CBP measures to improve supply chain security and interdict threats to aviation,” wrote EAA Executive Director Michael Mullen in a letter to the House Homeland Security Committee leadership. “The three EAA members were the original ‘co-creators’ of the Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) program, one of the most effective public-private sector partnerships ever formed,” he said. “This is just one example of how these companies exceed the standards of Tier 2 CTPAT membership and employ best practices to ensure highly secure operations and therefore merit Tier 3 membership.”

Mullen said EAA also supports the CTPAT reauthorization bill’s provision requiring a cost/benefit analysis before adding minimum security provisions to the program and providing an opportunity for stakeholders to comment.   “Modifying CTPAT requirements can involve extensive costs for industry, and government should ensure these costs will be balanced with appropriate benefits in terms of genuinely increased security,” he said. In addition, EAA supports the CTPAT reauthorization bill’s continuation of the CTPAT recertification to every four years. “The costs of a CTPAT recertification can easily run into seven figures, and for highly secure companies like the EAA members, this process is not necessary more than every four years,” Mullen said.