Users say border waits cut

Jill Dunn | July 21, 2010

Those involved in the Free and Secure Trade program at U.S. northern border crossings say the program has decreased wait time, but Customs and Border Protection officials lack data to measure this accurately.

The Government Accountability Office released the report July 20 based on feedback from CBP officials and stakeholders, including the American Trucking Associations. The CBP does not collect information that could assess staffing and infrastructure constraints on wait times.

The CBP launched the FAST program in 2002 to expedite processing for pre-vetted, low-risk shipments. FAST driver cards provide quicker release to approved truckers making fully-qualified FAST trips between the United States and Canada or to the United States from Mexico.

Wait times for commercial vehicles have decreased because of lower traffic volumes as a result of the recession and staffing and infrastructure improvements. The CBP increased northern border staffing levels by 47 percent in fiscal years 2003-2010.

The GAO found agency officers receive three to 14 weeks of on-the-job training rather than the required 12 to 14 weeks. The agency launched an enhanced tracking system in April to monitor training, which officials said will enable them to work with field offices that are not providing required training

The oversight agency recommended the CBP develop milestones for completing the database enhancements and research if program benefits are being realized. The Department of Homeland Security, which the CBP is under, concurred.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee, requested the report.

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