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  February 22nd, 2017 | Written by

GAO Finds C-TPAT Data Problems

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  • C-TPAT was organized in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
  • C-TPAT is facing problems with its data management system.
  • C-TPAT finds it difficult to document benefits to members.

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism has been around since November 2001, having been organized in the wake of the 9/11 attacks with initial membership of seven companies.

But in all that time, C-TPAT’s management is still facing problems meeting their security validation responsibilities because of problems with the functionality of the program’s data management system, Portal 2.0. As a result of faulty data, C-TPAT also finds it difficult to document benefits to its members.

Those were the key conclusions of a report issued recently by the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency.

C-TPAT is a voluntary program in which staff of Customs and Border Protection validate that members’ supply chain security practices meet minimum security criteria. In return, members are eligible to receive benefits, such as a reduced likelihood their shipments will be examined.

The GEO report noted that since the Portal 2.0 system was updated in August 2015, C-TPAT staff have identified instances in which the system incorrectly altered C-TPAT members’ certification or security profile dates, requiring manual verification of member data and impairing the ability of C-TPAT security specialists to identify and complete required security validations efficiently.

CBP staff have begun to identify the root causes of Portal 2.0’s problems. Among other things, they cited unclear requirements for the system and its users’ needs,  coupled with inadequate testing, as factors that likely contributed to problems.

C-TPAT officials told GAO that despite Portal 2.0’s problems, the required security validations are being tracked and completed as a result of record reviews taking place at field offices. But the GAO found that the field office reviews were developed in the absence of standardized guidance from C-TPAT headquarters.

“Standardizing the process used by field offices for tracking required security validations could strengthen C-TPAT management’s assurance that its field offices are identifying and completing the required security validations in a consistent and reliable manner,” the report said.

Data problems are also preventing CBP from determining the extent to which C-TPAT members are receiving benefits.  Since 2012, CBP has compiled data on cargo examination and hold rates and processing times for C-TPAT and non-C-PAT companies through its Dashboard data reporting tool. But the GAO found that data the contained in the Dashboard could not be relied on for accurately measuring C-TPAT member benefits.

“Also,” the report concluded, “CBP has likely relied on such questionable data since it developed the Dashboard in 2012, and, thus, cannot be assured that C-TPAT consistently received the benefits that CBP has publicized.”

GAO recommended that CBP develop standardized guidance for field offices regarding the tracking of information on security validations, and a plan to fix the Dashboard “so the C-TPAT program can produce accurate data on C-TPAT member benefits.”