(12/13/2011) Technology, information streams, processes and partnerships have redefined international travel and trade and revolutionized the concept of borders, explained U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar at a conference of airport and industry security executives in Arlington, Va., today.

Aguilar told the attendees of the American Association of Airport Executives Aviation Security Summit that the centuries-old model of an officer interacting with a person or shipment only after they have reached our border is both too little and too late.

“We now see the border in terms of flows of people and goods, starting well before they depart,” said Aguilar. “These flows are global in nature and must be managed and assessed throughout their journey. Today, global data collection and risk-assessment capabilities in both the cargo and passenger environments are powerful anti-terror weapons.”

Aguilar posed a question to the audience: “Can we use these technologies, partnerships and processes to provide benefit beyond security, to assist the 98 percent of the people and goods we know are legitimate, the people and goods that provide crucial support for economy? Can we address both the security and economic challenges we face today?

In answering this critical question, Aguilar explained the details of the Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot, or ACAS, which was set in motion after al Qaeda operatives attempted to ship parcel bombs from Yemen via UPS and Federal Express.

“With great urgency, CBP reached out the express shippers and discussed the challenge of adding an important layer to our security offering: getting key information about shipments before boarding [aircraft],” stated Aguilar.

Aguilar said that in the first half-year of the program, the ACAS pilot screened more than two million packages bound for the U.S. before they were loaded on an aircraft. He said the program not only improves supply-chain security, it also reduces the number of inspections and speeds up the overall process.

“The promise of sooner, safer and cheaper is being met,” said Aguilar. “We believe the Air Cargo Advance Screening program will forever change the air cargo process as we move forward.”

Throughout his remarks, Aguilar stressed the importance of providing security while facilitating the process for the “98 percent of people and goods we know are legitimate.”

“I think we can make the process of international travel into the U.S. more inviting,” building tourism, Aguilar concluded. “I think we can streamline and strengthen air cargo shipment processing, making it more accurate, predictable and streamlined. I think we can build our trusted traveler programs in the air environment, alleviating wait times and better focusing our inspection efforts. I think we can live up to the highest calling of America, to be welcoming, safe and economically sound.


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