US Customs and Border Patrol makes cuts to combat sequestration
In the USA, with sequestration taking effect on March 1, automatic spending cuts have been triggered which will force US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to make significant cuts in its budget which could have a serious impact on shipments, especially imports into the USA.
Sequestration, adopted by Congress as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, was designed to force Congress to come to an agreement to address the federal budget deficit. It triggers a series of automatic government spending cuts, totalling about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. These spending cuts, which started March 1, 2013, are split equally between defence and non-defence spending, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
It would appear that the biggest impact to importers will come from the elimination of overtime hours for CBP officers. CBP expects employee redundancies to begin in April and last through the remainder of the year. These cutbacks could lead to up to 5 day delays in cargo examinations for ocean cargo and 5-6 hour delays for air cargo. CBP is committed to its antiterrorism mission and is continuing the cargo screening through the radiation portal monitors. These non-intrusive exams usually happen seamlessly and add little time to the release and delivery of the cargo. However, with labour cutbacks, it is reasonable to anticipate delays due to this screening.
Service levels will reduce with regard to CBP cargo operations, according to the DHS website. There may also be significant daily back-ups for truck shipments at land border ports.
In mid February, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that sequester reductions would roll back border security, increase wait times at ports of entry and airports, and produce a host of other consequences.
As a result of sequestration, CBP may reduce hours of service at select airports, seaports and land ports of entry, and any changes to service hours will be port-specific and determined locally.
CBP has stated that priority will be given in certain situations. Perishable cargo will be prioritised with the objective of no meaningful delays in the cargo release. CBP also stated that those companies that have made significant investment in CBP partnerships such as the Importer Self-Assessment Program and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism will continue to realise the benefits of those partnerships and will get priority processing.
We are still learning how other federal agencies will handle the sequestration however CBP advised that APHIS, FDA and CPSC do not expect redundancies at least for the near term.