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International Partners Collaborate to Transform Customs Processing

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U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics, known as J5/4, is the executive agent for the Department of Defense Customs and Border Clearance Program. While executing this role, J5/4 identified opportunities to improve efficiency in host nations’ cargo clearance processes. Together with the USTRANSCOM Acquisition Directorate (AQ), they initiated the Customs Process Automation (CPA) Program to simplify as much of the process as possible.

Historically, the customs process was a highly paper-driven procedure without the capability to provide important metrics on shipments. The CPA developer worked with commercial carriers, combatant commands and customs officials from Germany and the Republic of Korea to develop the CPA system capabilities. The program automated the clearance process in the two countries by providing necessary data to allow entry and processing of duty-free commercial air shipments, as provided for by each country’s Status of Forces Agreement.

Kathy Sneider, J5/4 functional manager, reported the following feedback from customs clearance officers with U.S. Army Europe:

- “The CPA is a great time-and-money-saving program that reduces a lot of paperwork.” -Werner Schmidt

- “The CPA System allows commercial carriers the possibility to submit shipments into the system before the shipments physically arrive so they can be pre-customs cleared (if all required information is available). This expedites the customs clearance process during the night shift for the delivery of the freight.” - Marina Klein

- “The CPA is a very user-friendly system because the options are self-explanatory. It not only helps customs clearance officers process shipments, it also helps the carriers to deliver the shipments on time.” - Ursula Peckson

AQ program manager Paul Jones added, “The more rapid clearance process aims to enable greater on-time shipment delivery."

Since CPA was deployed in April 2009, it has successfully improved host nation customs and border clearance procedures, reduced the workload on the user community, and reduced shipment delays. Automating the process has allowed the just over 120 users in Germany alone to process on average 375,408 shipments annually.

According to Sneider, CPA reduces the cost of processing these shipment documents by more than 98 percent, and reduces the on-time closure rate (set by the European Union) of the shipments by more than 75 percent.

“By automating this once cumbersome paper process in only these two countries,” concluded Jones, “CPA was key in the documented FY2011 cost avoidance of $8.5 million in processing fees, on top of reducing necessary man-hours and shipping times."

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