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Report: Customs Must Be Better Staffed

July 28, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Customs needs to come up with a plan to meet the long-term staffing needs and strategic goals of two government programs to bolster the security of sea cargo, congressional investigators said Monday.

The two programs run by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection are aimed at preventing terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States, a concern given that roughly 7 million ocean containers arrive at U.S. seaports each year. The matter of improving cargo security took on urgency after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

``Although Customs is preparing to devote significantly more resources ... as it expands the programs, it has not taken adequate steps to incorporate factors necessary for the programs’ long-term success and accountability,″ the General Accounting Office said. ``These factors include human capital planning, development of performance measures and strategic planning.″

In a letter to the GAO, Customs commissioner Robert Bonner said it would take steps to address the investigators’ concerns.

The programs addressed in the GAO report are the Container Security Initiative, in which U.S. customs inspectors are placed in foreign ports to screen sea cargo destined for the United States; and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, in which the government works with private companies to improve security throughout their supply chains.

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