A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that U.S. Customs and Border Protection needs more and better information on the effectiveness of the Container Security Initiative (CSI), according to the law firm of Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A. Customs has made progress in implementing the program since its inception in 2002, GAO says, but faces a number of challenges that could limit the program's success. On the plus side, Customs is doing a better job of evaluating its CSI team activities, so that program managers can better understand the value of the program. With the help of a new electronic tool, for example, the agency is testing the abilities of officers who identify high-risk cargo. But Customs is still limited in the accuracy and completeness of information needed to make key management decisions. Evaluators don't always use the data-collection tools as intended, or follow up on recommendations from earlier evaluation reports. In particular, GAO says, Customs lacks information about the systems that host government's use when examining high-risk containerized cargo. The agency is hampered by a lack of guidelines for reviewing the equipment, people and processes deployed by systems for the evaluation of CSI port operations. With U.S. legislators mandating the 100-percent scanning at foreign seaports of U.S.-bound containers for nuclear or other radiological materials, Customs should have ready access to information about the reliability of cargo examinations at the point of origin, GAO says. The watchdog agency also says that Customs still relies in part on temporary workforces at CSI seaports, and has not surmounted all of the hurdles that prevent full cooperation between CSI teams and their foreign counterparts. As of last fall, 26 foreign customs administrations had committed to joining CSI, according to CBP.
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