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CBP, PGAs Discussing Gov't Shutdown, CBP's Sabatino Says

Conversations have started “weeks ago” between CBP and its partner government agencies regarding a potential government shutdown, said Diane Sabatino, executive assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Field Operations, during an speech Sept. 12.

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Sabatino's remarks came in response to a question from Megan Montgomery, National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America executive vice president, who noted that if there is a shutdown, it will be the first during which customs brokers who used to be on district permits would be on national permits -- a result of a CBP final rule released in October 2022 that eliminated the broker district permit for a single national permit for customs brokers (see 2210170071).

This new national permit could make working under a shutdown more complicated, Montgomery said. Current government funding expires Sept. 30 unless Congress approves new spending bills or passes legislation to extend the deadline.

"We're going to go from a scenario in which, last time, everybody could kind of finagle with their local port to find somebody to clear those goods. Now everybody's got 400 and something ports, agencies that don't always get their trade staff deemed essential in a shutdown, and frankly, often when there is a conflict between CBP headquarters and CBP local ports or the local port authorities, and ports just always prevail." This could lead to NCBFAA members in particular "not only negotiating 400 times" but also "teeter-tottering between headquarters and the local ports and getting multiple different results," she said.

Sabatino said that while those CBP-PGA discussions are happening, she doesn't "have a great answer" on how this issue is going to be solved at every port. Sabatino said that they are beginning to identify PGAs "where we really saw the greatest impact" and are working on a plan to address potential issues at those PGAs that may arise. "I don't want to say that we're overly confident that we've resolved what some of those lingering issues are going to be, but we're planning for those and how to mitigate those today," Sabatino said.

Sabatino also discussed broker visits CBP has been conducting related to violative merchandise, including fentanyl, CBP found that was imported under Entry Type 86 (see 2309110059). The main focus has been "educating" brokers and freight forwarders to work together to increase compliance, Sabatino said. "We really want to understand where the problem is" for brokers and freight forwarders, Sabatino said. Also, CBP wants brokers and freight forwarders to see "what we're actually seeing," she said.

"We can't operate in a vacuum," Sabatino said. "We need to know to ensure the security and the identification of those bad actors using legitimate means to move these significant narcotics, and the results from those discussions are going to continue to help inform us overall."