U.S. Customs Service: Concerns About Coordination and Inspection Staffing on the Southwest Border, Statement of Allan I. Mendelowitz, Director, International Trade and Finance Issues, General Government Division, Testimony before the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate   [open pdf - 526KB]

"Efficient border operations require coordination among a number of entities, including various U.S. agencies, state and local governments, and Mexico. Inadequate coordination has led to (1) staffing imbalances between Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and (2) insufficient inspector staff for existing and planned facilities. The shortage of inspectors has been the main cause of long waits to cross the border into the United States. Although Customs and INS share equal responsibility for primary inspections at the border, these agencies have not received comparable increases in inspection staff in recent years. Therefore, increasing the number of Customs inspectors will not necessarily reduce the waiting times for primary vehicle inspections unless INS receives corresponding staff increases. GAO also found that neither Customs nor INS had an adequate method for determining staffing needs. Customs used two models to assist it in determining border staffing needs. However, neither was adequate to accurately measure how many inspectors were currently needed nor to reliably project how many would be needed in relation to trade increases. GAO used these models because there were no better alternatives at the time it did its study."

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