NCBFAA Hill Testimony Reiterates Commitment to Security,
Phone: (202) 466-0222
|For Immediate Release
Washington, DC: National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) Chairman Peter H. Powell, Sr., told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade that, while the NCBFAA is fully committed to homeland security, it is critical that regulators work to ensure a balance between that security and trade facilitation. In addition to his role as NCBFAA Chairman, Mr. Powell is also CEO of C. H. Powell Company, a full-service transportation logistics firm in Westwood, MA. His testimony was before a hearing on the subject of the FY2005-2006 Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Authorization Act.
"Our industry has committed its time and resources to protecting America from terrorism," he said. "At the same time, the cost of these measures need not be to sacrifice time of movement and to create cost burdens on shippers and consumers that they cannot afford."
Mr. Powell lauded CBP’s actions to date but " . . . having the right intentions and giving the trade community the opportunity for effective input are only part of the equation." He noted that this approach is limited by CBP’s resource crises involving the loss of experienced staff to retirement, the lack of high-tech equipment for inspections and the redirection of staff to security inspections from commercial operations.
Referring to the redirection of staff, he said, "This loss of commercial orientation is symptomatic of a shift that is proving very harmful to the smooth flow of trade."
He praised the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) as having " . . . both commercial and security advantages . . ." that " . . . has been used deftly by CBP as a ‘carrot’ that cannot be ignored and must be embraced." However, it can only involve 7,200 importers out of approximately 400,000 because it cannot include small periodic importers.
"Security will depend on more programs than C-TPAT," he added, "programs that complement each other as they reduce risk and increase the government’s ability to intercept the one container that could devastate our country."
One problem cited in his testimony was the emergence of " . . . Department of Homeland Security [DHS] agency programs that often prove duplicative, overreaching or at cross-purposes." He noted private sector concern with reconciling these disparate programs but concluded that the DHS was making efforts to correct this situation.
One recent area of concern he pointed out was the joint implementation of the Bioterrorism Act by CBP and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately, the going has been less than smooth. "The relationship between CBP, the agency more experienced in the details of border processing," he said, "and the FDA appears to be at best ‘tentative’ to trade community observers."
Chairman Powell also chided Congress for its performance to date. "In the clamor for immediate results and in the throes of a partisan election year," he admonished, "there is an inclination in the Congress to establish requirements without consultation, to demand action without concern for its effects on trade, and to expect that somehow a ‘silver bullet’ can be found."
He called for flexibility and willingness to experiment with a variety of approaches noting, "For every measure there is a countermeasure that can defeat a security technology."
In conclusion, he asked the committee to take a lead advocacy role in tempering the instinct of others to legislate. "I believe that often achieving the right answers requires this discourse and an evolution towards alternatives," he said. "Overly directive Congressional language mandating particular steps in the commercial and regulatory process can be counterproductive."
With headquarters in Washington, DC, the NCBFAA (www.ncbfaa.org) represents nearly 700 member companies - the nation's leading freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs) and air cargo agents. Established in 1897 in New York, NCBFAA is the strong, effective national voice of the industry. Through its various committees, counsel and representatives, the Association maintains a close watch over legislative and regulatory issues that affect its members. It keeps them informed of these and other related issues through its weekly Monday Morning eBriefing, Quarterly NCBFAA Bulletin, and various meetings and conferences throughout the year.