From TPM: Customs Lacks Clout on Sequestration

From TPM: Customs Lacks Clout on Sequestration

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Supply chains will soon feel the federal budget sequestration’s impact on Customs and Border Protection, a trade attorney warned the JOC’s 13th annual TPM Conference.

Without a permanent Customs commissioner, the agency is unable to argue against ham-handed implementation of the budget cuts, Los Angeles-based attorney Susan Kohn Ross said.

She said David Aguilar, acting commissioner since December 2011, is doing an “excellent job,” but that he and his civil service staff lack the clout to push back against the reductions.

“The way those cuts are being implemented and forced down the throat of Customs is a direct result, I think, of there not being a (permanent) commissioner,” Ross said.

“We’re in an impossible situation that is totally unforgivable,” Ross said.

“It’s unforgiveable that we’re now 14 or 15 months without having a permanent commissioner.”

Complete coverage of trans-Pacific maritime trade.

Other agencies have complained that they won’t be able to properly function under the sequester, but Customs has said, “We are going to do our jobs,” Ross said.

She warned, though, that Customs will eventually be fall behind on processing paperwork, handling export documents for autos, and monitoring containers for radiation.

“It’s too early to know how quickly the containers are going to back up, but they’re going to,” she said.

Learn more about the impact of sequestration.

Ross said the sequester won’t be seriously felt at Customs until the agency issues 30-day layoff notices to the union representing agency employees.

“At this point, the fairest thing I can say is, we have no way to predict how long it’s going to take or how badly it’s going to impact the supply chain,” Ross said.

“I do think, frankly, that there’s going to be a quick solution when you see the CEOs of the major corporations getting on the phone with the White House and getting on the phone with the congressional leadership and saying, ‘Fix things now before we have to start laying off people.’ ”

Contact Joseph Bonney at and follow him at