I attended the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection (COAC) meeting on February 25, 2010 in Miami.  The 20 private sector members of COAC are jointly selected by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury, and include knowledgeable customs compliance and logistics personnel from such prominent companies as DHL, APL, Hasbro, and GE.  The COAC meets four times a year to discuss creating or changing the policies and procedures of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they affect the international trade community.

The Miami meeting included an introduction by Acting Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, referred to as “Chief” which is his title with the CBP component U.S. Border Patrol.  Chief Aguilar spoke about “security,” “resilience,” and “protecting customs and exchange” which apparently is the new terminology for the former “facilitating international trade”.  His introduction focused on assessing and mitigating risks of people and cargo entering the United States.

Substantive presentations were made by, among others, Therese Randazzo, Director, IPR Policy and Programs, Office of International Trade on behalf of the IPR Subcommittee.  Therese discussed the new IPR sample bond form for trademark and copyright owners to use to get samples of detained or seized merchandise from CBP.

Rich DiNucci, Director, Secure Freight Initiative, Office of Field Operations on the topic of Importer Security Filing, stated there were 2,300 ISF filers with 141,000 unique importer record numbers. Rich stated that the timeliness of the ISF or “10+2” filing has increased to 75%.  No penalties would be issued by CBP for ISF filing errors or failure to file…for now.

Bradd Skinner,  Director, Industry Partnership Programs, Office of Field Operations, spoke about CTPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism). Bradd announced that CBP now had 9,710 certified CTPAT members, a dramatic increase from the original 7 members in 2001.  1,200 new members were added in 2009.  CBP Security Supply Chain Specialists conducted 14,000 validations so far in 87 countries.  297 companies were suspended or removed from CTPAT in 2009.

The COAC is an excellent way for private sector persons and companies to interact with top level CBP and Treasury personnel regarding the critically important, and sometime competing, objectives of security and trade. Now more than ever, our Government needs to listen closely how to improve the daily lives of its citizens. Chief Aguilar, thanks for listening.