The Postal Service still needs to work on its ability to share international shipment data with Customs and Border Protection, according to an oversight report.
A year into an effort to close a critical gap in international drug trafficking through the mail, the U.S. Postal Service is gaining some ground in sharing data on international shipments with Customs and Border Protection, according to a government watchdog study.
Despite that progress, the USPS still needs to step its efforts up to meet the requirements of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP Act) signed into law in October 2018, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued Dec. 18.
USPS has lagged in its ability to provide CBP with advanced electronic data (AED) on incoming international shipments as part of an effort to track shipments of opioids including Fentanyl. China has been named by U.S. officials as top originator of international Fentanyl and illicit opioid shipments.
Independent commercial shippers, such as FedEx and DHL, implemented technology years ago that provides CBP with AED to sniff out potentially risky packages in their systems.
The STOP Act set goals for USPS to gather AED on international shipments from foreign shippers and transmit the data to CBP. Data elements include information on the sender, recipient, contents as well as an identifier number. CBP analyzes the data through its National Targeting Center to detect suspect shipments and requests USPS stop targeted packages for inspection.
Although USPS didn't meet requirements included in the STOP Act for transmitting the data, its transmission rates have generally increased from January 2019 through August 2019, according to the report. GAO said it didn't include specific goals and rates in its report because USPS considers the information to be sensitive.
A July report from USPS' own inspector general reached a similar conclusion about data transmission rates. That report said USPS "didn't always effectively fill" CBP's hold requests on inbound packages in 2018. It said, however, the "hold compliance rate" was slowly increasing -- to 88% of monitored mail in 2018, up from 79% in 2017 and 67% in 2016.
GAO's December report said factors outside USPS were part of the problem.
The STOP Act required the Department of Homeland Security to come up with regulations to clarify technical details on how USPS should transmit package data to CBP by Oct. 24. DHS, it said, “was still working through competing priorities” and hadn't finished drafting the regulations. Additionally some national postal services don't have the capability of transmitting AED.
GAO recommended DHS set up and implement a timeline to draft and complete its regulations.
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