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FCW : April 30, 2016
April 30, 2016 FCW.COM 11 U.S. border operations are entering a particularly turbulent period as presidential candidates turn the security issue into a campaign combat zone. Yet although immigration and border security debates reprise old arguments with little substantive change, the federal agencies that monitor immigration and U.S. borders are quietly undergoing a technological revolution. Customs and Border Protection safeguards more than 100,000 miles of combined border and shoreline and 327 ports of entry using a bewildering array of technology — including aircraft and ground sensors, massive databases and back-office IT systems. After some unsuccessful attempts at wholesale reinvention, the agency has embraced the idea of making changes in incremental steps. Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said CBP officials are turning to modular development and deployment techniques to take up the slack in a sluggish budget environment and maximize technology’s impact. The agency’s fiscal 2016 budget request was $13.5 billion (a slight increase from fiscal 2015), and according to the federal IT Dashboard, nearly $1.7 billion is earmarked for 61 IT projects. “Agile is a core principle for IT” at CBP, McAleenan said. “We’re pushing the envelope” to move away from traditional waterfall development and make “bite- sized, flexible contracting models” a core part of CBP’s culture. To illustrate that evolving culture, he pointed to the agency’s rapid development and launch of the Automated Passport Control (APC) program at airports around the country. The system began with a 2013 trial at Canada’s Vancouver International Airport, and now travelers at 40 domestic and a few international airports can use self-service kiosks to submit their customs declaration forms and biographical data instead of waiting in line to interact with an on-site customs officer. McAleenan said officials chose to bypass a years-long waterfall development cycle in favor of issuing broad requirements and allowing companies to come up with solutions — a process that took less than a year. And the system has already helped bring passenger wait times in airport customs lines back down to 2012 levels, he added. 0430fcw_010-013.indd 11 4/5/16 4:14 PM
April 15, 2016
May 15, 2016