So, what’s wrong with the program? Honestly, many things but in my humble opinion one of the biggest problems plaguing C-TPAT has been a lack of continuity in management. The C-TPAT program has been a revolving door of Program Directors over the years; the position is a “rotational position” within CBP. As such, each Director has put their own spin on the program or (worse yet) simply counted the days until their ticket was punched and they could move to their next assignment.
One of the other big problems that continues to be the Achilles heel of C-TPAT is communication; plain and simple. With little exception, few e-mails or voicemails left for Supply Chain Security Specialists (SCSS) are returned. That’s not only disgraceful to the position, but it is disrespectful to the tax paying companies who are trying to ask questions or obtain information.
And, then sometimes when they do communicate, it’s with wrong information! For example, just the other day a client called and indicated that their SCSS was demanding that they include all Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) transactions in their program too. This isn’t the first time that a SCSS has requested this, so it’s pervasive across the universe of SCSS’s. The fact is DDP shipments should never be included in the program because the importer or customer has no control over the broker, the carrier or the forwarder. Additionally, only the Importer of Record’s C-TPAT status is counted during processing and scoring in CBP’s Automated Targeting System. So if you’ve been hoodwinked by your SCSS into including DDP shipments in your C-TPAT program, I recommend that you cease and desist immediately. You are making more work for yourself with absolutely no benefit. We suggested that our client challenge this SCSS and they quickly confirmed that only shipments for which they are the Importer of Record for CBP purposes should be included.
Fallout from C-TPAT Portal 2.0 also continues to hamper the program. The Portal is clunky, very poorly designed and lacks any real substance. It can hardly be viewed as a tool they SCSS can use to determine if the applicant is meeting or exceeding C-TPAT minimum criteria. The narrative questions make no logical sense whatsoever and are all over the board. I have also heard of many companies who were at various stages of applying for C-TPAT when Portal 2.0 was launched. Many of those companies fell completely through the cracks and apparently were no longer visible to CBP and the SCSS’s. I know this because we have a client in this category.
But perhaps the most disappointing thing I’ve heard about C-TPAT recently was that a large (name brand) importer decided they wanted to opt out of the C-TPAT program. Fearing retribution or concern for their reputation with CBP, the company dutifully contacted their trusted customs attorney at a well-known law firm for advice. The advice and answer was quick, absolutely you should resign and we can assure you there will be no fallout. We have a form letter you can use (obviously not the first time they had been asked). The importer sent the form letter to their SCSS at CBP. And so what do you think the response was? Well, let me tell you what it wasn’t! The SCSS didn’t ask why or inquire about what, if anything, was wrong. The SCSS didn’t ask what CBP or the C-TPAT program could have done better? Frankly speaking the SCSS didn’t give a hoot! Their answer? “Thanks for letting us know.” That’s it. No follow-up or curiosity, just a pathetic and apathetic answer by a highly paid, poorly managed and trained government wonk.
In summary, CBP’s C-TPAT Program is a train wreck in slow motion. It has been painful to watch CBP ruin a program that was once touted as the most successful private and public partnership ever created.
To download an Adobe copy of this article please follow this link: C-TPAT Off the Rails, Part II