Thoughts for the New CBP Commissioner

On January 15th, Richard Gil Kerlikowske was nominated as the new permanent commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP). CBP is a federal law enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with preventing terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States, securing the border, facilitating international trade and travel and enforcing U.S. regulations. As the former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mr. Kerlikowske’s 37 years of law enforcement and drug policy experience make him a strong candidate for the position. Following a Senate Finance Committee hearing on January 15, he now awaits Senate confirmation.


As new commissioner, Mr. Kerlikowske will have many issues to address. Among the challenges he’ll face are the tasks of  modernizing and expanding border crossings, staying ahead of criminals’ technology and maintaining an organization capable of  keeping up with millions of travelers.

One way to tackle many of these challenges is through increased integration of technology solutions throughout the agency. As a company that works with many of our nation’s federal agencies there are a few ideas we believe Mr. Kerlikowske will want to consider:

  • Double Down on Mobility: One of the most effective ways to improve productivity and efficiency in the agency is through the use of mobile technology. Like many frontline professionals in law enforcement and the armed services, CBP officers have long relied on rugged laptops, which provide a durable platform to stay connected and productive. Rugged technology enables officers to monitor various points of access, communicate with the members of their team, pull up police/criminal records, and access their internal databases remotely from wherever their work takes them. We encourage Mr. Kerlikowske to take a fresh look at the role mobile technology can play in boosting efficiency throughout his agency, especially considering the release of newer form factors – such as tablets in a range of sizes – which officers and other staff can employ in new ways throughout the agency.
  • Stay Ahead of Technology: To successfully modernize and improve efficiency at border crossings, it will be critical to utilize the latest security and surveillance technology. Although CBP already utilizes sophisticated video surveillance in many areas, such as thermal imaging systems at border areas, embracing IP-based systems throughout the agency’s operations will be key as it moves forward. IP-based surveillance systems provide superior image quality and enable advanced video analytics capabilities, boosting overall agency effectiveness by giving personnel the ability to better monitor crowds, identify important faces and capture small details in video footage. IP-based systems also substantially streamline operations and management, with capabilities such as remote access to both live and recorded surveillance feeds and the ability to reposition and control pan-tilt-zoom cameras, via mobile computers. According to news reports, the agency has also begun exploring the use of mobile video surveillance – such as body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras – and these, too, are key advancements already in use with civilian law enforcement that would hold tremendous benefit for CBP.
  • Utilize Solutions: While the latest technology can improve efficiency and lower costs for an organization, their acquisition can be a substantial expense. To get the highest return on investment, it is beneficial for the commissioner to avoid piecemeal procurements and take an integrated approach toward technology investments. This means performing a comprehensive assessment of the agency’s needs, gaps and plans for future initiatives, and working with a technology partner to develop a solution that addresses them. An integrated, solutions-based approach not only ensures that all the technology components seamlessly integrate and complement each other, but also streamlines future expansion as the agency’s needs evolve.

The CBP agency is tasked with securing the homeland, and like any large government agency today, it faces a monumental challenge of improving efficiency and modernizing its organization while reducing costs. By taking an integrated approach to deploying some of the latest mobility and security solutions, Mr. Kerlikowske has the opportunity to cost effectively improve efficiency and productivity throughout the agency. We congratulate Mr. Kerlikowske on his nomination, and should he be confirmed, look forward to seeing how he tackles the challenges ahead.

Image courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection