Home Homeland Security The Future of US Customs and Border Protection

The Future of US Customs and Border Protection

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By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security

Colleen Manaher – Executive Director, Planning, Program Analysis, and Evaluation Office, Office of Field Operations U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – was the keynote speaker Thursday at the annual Homeland Security Week conference.

Manaher, who has decades of experience within the CBP, informed the assembled attendees of her vision of a paperless, streamlined process at our nation’s borders – particularly the U.S.-Mexico line.

“We need to modernize the arrivals process,” stated Manaher. “We have what I call a perfect storm brewing; we have unprecedented growth – not only in the passenger environment – but in the cargo environment including sea containers and trucks … We can’t go back to Congress … so, we have to innovate our way out of this, because we cannot sustain this kind of growth without some type of innovation.”

Biometrics: A Paperless Customs and Border Protection

Manaher was concerned by the lack of modernization and forward-thinking currently evident in some of her field offices.

“Our strategy going forward: We’ve got to be mobile; we’ve got to get rid of paper,” said Manaher. “The transformation agent for the future of CBP is biometrics.”

Biometrics was a big theme at this year’s Homeland Security Week, with a focus day Tuesday devoted entirely to the subject. A panel discussion Thursday featuring experts from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Protection and Programs Directorate, 3M and Iris ID Systems detailed a world in which facial recognition will become the go-to standard for numerous applications including law enforcement and border security.

“Biometrics have entered our daily lives, and we’ve said ‘welcome,’ and I – as government – thank private industry for jumping that gun,” said Manaher. She pointed to smartphones that now allow you to use your fingerprint to unlock your device as well as amusement parks which also use fingerprints to lock and unlock visitors’ lockers. “Biometrics have become a part of daily life, and the public has accepted their use in many cases.”

The Proactive Approach

Looking further  into the future, Manaher envisions a more proactive approach to immigration and customs techniques.

“Right now, we [CBP agents] sit at ports of entry – waiting for work,” stated Manaher. “What kind of business model is that? Why don’t we start to shake things up and go to the work?

Manaher went on to describe a scenario whereby special CBP agents might be able to contact arriving passengers on commercial airplanes to initiate the customs or immigration process for U.S. residents and citizens before they even left the plane. “Welcome home, please report to ‘lane eight,’” said Manaher – alluding to her vision of a ‘paperless’ future of the CBP.

Homeland Security Week concluded Thursday in our nation’s capital.

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