Updated Planning and Communication Could Enhance Agency Coordination of Inspections

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What GAO Discovered

The Division of Homeland Safety’s U.S. Customs and Border Safety (CBP) and the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Well being Inspection Service (APHIS) oversee inspections of imported agricultural merchandise to guard the U.S. agricultural trade and atmosphere. For instance, in 2020, CBP inspectors intercepted egg lots of the Asian gypsy moth, a pest that poses a menace to fruit timber and different crops. CBP and APHIS additionally work to stop the introduction of illnesses equivalent to African swine fever, which may trigger billions of {dollars} in injury to the U.S. pork provide.

CBP and APHIS created the Joint Company Job Power (JATF) to coordinate on inspections and a joint strategic plan for 2014–2019. The JATF has not up to date its strategic plan; in consequence, the plan’s goals usually are not present. In response to CBP, the companies took motion to finish the goals. For instance, CBP’s deployment of digital microscopes accomplished an goal to leverage expertise to establish pests. Nonetheless, the JATF has not reported on its progress towards assembly the goals in its 2014–2019 plan. GAO has beforehand discovered that progress experiences will help maintain companies accountable for attaining outcomes. Growing a progress report would permit the JATF to doc its progress and would supply priceless info to tell improvement of an up to date strategic plan. With out assessing the JATF’s progress and updating its strategic plan, CBP and APHIS can’t be certain that the JATF’s goals replicate essentially the most present or pressing issues affecting imported agriculture.

In response to CBP officers, CBP steering directs its inspectors to contact inspectors with the Division of the Inside’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) about wildlife encountered throughout inspections of imported animals. CBP and FWS inspectors stated that they’ve a collaborative working relationship, however some CBP inspectors described miscommunication with FWS at ports of entry as a result of they didn’t have adequate contact info. CBP officers instructed GAO that CBP supervisors on the ports of entry are accountable for guaranteeing their inspectors observe CBP’s steering, which incorporates whom to contact at FWS. Nonetheless, GAO discovered that the newest updates of this steering ranged from 2009 to 2020. By reviewing and updating current communication steering the place crucial, CBP may assist deal with any gaps in communication between CBP and FWS inspectors at ports of entry.

U.S. Customs and Border Safety Agriculture Specialists and Canine Staff

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists and Canine Team

Why GAO Did This Examine

USDA estimates that over 50,000 invasive species are already within the U.S., costing virtually $120 billion yearly in environmental damages and losses. Federal inspectors at U.S. ports of entry assist forestall threats from invasive species by inspecting agricultural merchandise (e.g., crops, seeds, and animals) coming into the U.S. CBP conducts nearly all of inspections, APHIS units inspection requirements, and FWS inspects imported wildlife. The Defending America’s Meals and Agriculture Act of 2019 licensed $221.6 million in appropriations to extend CBP staffing ranges for inspectors for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022.

The act features a provision that GAO evaluate federal efforts to deal with dangers to the agricultural provide. This report examines, amongst different issues, how federal companies coordinate duties for inspection of imported agriculture. GAO reviewed company paperwork and interviewed company officers and company inspectors working at giant and small ports of entry.

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