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New C-TPAT director has big to-do list

The following is from the 28 January 2013 edition of American Shipper.

Lauren Kaufer is the new director of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

Kevin McAleenan, acting assistant commissioner of field operations, made the announcement early this month at the annual C-TPAT conference, according to a summary of the event posted on CBP's Website. The conference, held outside Washington, was closed to the press this time.

Kaufer previously was acting director of CBP's personnel security division in the Office of Internal Affairs. She is a former civil litigation attorney and a graduate of CBP's Leadership Institute.

C-TPAT is a voluntary supply chain security partnership between U.S. Customs, importers, and their international service providers. The goal of the program is to certify that companies have strong security regimes in place to protect containers from being compromised by criminals or terrorists interested in smuggling contraband or weapons to the United States. Member companies are considered low-risk and subject to lower examination rates, which may vary depending on a company's individual circumstances.

Kaufer joins the program at a time of ferment and reduction in its budget. The program has had a series of acting directors for more than a year.

C-TPAT has grown to almost 10,500 members, but two years ago officials set a goal of reaching 40,000 participating companies by 2018 so inspectors can focus on unknown and high-risk shipments as trade volumes increase. Many private-sector shippers question whether the program is worthwhile to their operations given the significant costs to set up and maintain security programs that meet C-TPAT criteria. They say shipments still get held up more than expected and that there are not enough other rewards for going the extra mile for security.

CBP officials are trying to beef up the program and the benefits package.

Efforts are continuing to make the program more interchangeable with Authorized Economic Operator programs, similar to C-TPAT, in other countries so that local customs authorities can conduct on-site reviews of a sample supply chain and share the results with partner nations rather than having customs authorities travel to vet security at the manufacturing, logistics and port operations in the country of origin. 

CBP has mutual recognition agreements with Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Taiwan, South Korea and the European Union - governments it is confident have good oversight over supply chain security.

The agency is reviewing the compatibility of the trusted trader programs in Israel and Mexico to make sure they measure up to C-TPAT standards before signing a reciprocity agreement.

Customs recently added a small export component to C-TPAT, beginning with exports to Japan, and eventually plans to assess how all companies follow their approved security plans for outbound shipments, which will align C-TPAT with AEO programs and reduce the need for multinational companies to follow different sets of security requirements around the world. 

C-TPAT members are also benefiting from the new Centers of Excellence and Expertise, which are managing entries of participating importers on an industry-specific basis to ensure uniform processing instead of being subject to compliance decisions by individual ports based on their interpretation of enforcement guidelines.

CBP is also considering merging C-TPAT and the Importer Self-Assessment program to make a unified trusted trader program covering security and trade compliance. - Eric Kulisch

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