Aguilar Pledges Communication at Customs

Aguilar Pledges Communication at Customs

Customs and Border Protection will continue its layered strategy for supply chain security while continuing to look for ways to carry out Congress' mandate to scan all inbound containers, Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar said Monday.

Speaking to the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association's annual meeting in San Antonio, Aguilar pledged “communication, outreach and engagement,” and that protecting the economy was critical to national security.

Aguilar later told The Journal of Commerce that Congress recognized the difficulty in achieving 100 percent scanning and included an extension clause in its 2007 legislation. Earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that Customs would not meet the July 2012 deadline for 100 percent scanning of ocean containers at foreign ports.

“We're doing everything we can within the capabilities that we have, while still looking for any potential for getting to where Congress wants us,” Aguilar said. “Congress originally had a vision, but also recognizing the difficulty of it, and giving us the potential for extension, which we have opted to use.”

Aguilar said that Customs had achieved 100 percent screening of all cargo, along with greater supply chain visibility brought by programs like the Importer Security Filing or 10+2 rule, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

Aguilar was head of Customs after the retirement of Acting Commissioner Jayson Ahern last December. Monday was his first day on the job as deputy commissioner, in which he will act as the agency's chief operating officer.

Mary Jo Muoio, outgoing NCBFAA president, said Aguilar's message was the clearest the brokers had heard from a senior Customs official in a long time. Aguilar said later that the agency benefited from having a permanent management team led by Commissioner Alan Bersin.

Bersin was among several senior government officials that received recess appointments by President Obama two weeks ago. Bersin was the DHS “border czar” since February 2009 and was appointed to head Customs last September. The president said he made the appointments because Senate Republicans blocked confirmations.

Aguilar said that he and Bersin were still learning about Customs' trade facilitation role, but both had an appreciation for the importance of expediting trade. Aguilar has a 30-year career with the U.S. Border Patrol. He said Bersin understood international trade from his years as a U.S. attorney and head of the airport authority in San Diego.

“We're not newbies, but we have a learning curve,” Aguilar said. “That's a good thing, because we're not influenced by everything that's happened in the past. We're looking forward to what the future holds.”

Contact R.G. Edmonson at bedmonson@joc.com.