U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Information Technology’s Trusted Partnership Initiative program promotes teamwork across organizational lines, facilitating IT to operate at the speed of mission. Through regular engagement, Trusted Partner Initiative meetings increase partner-driven conversations and lead to more efficient and data-driven decision-making. This collaboration is crucial to meet the needs of a vast and wide-ranging mission and facilitate discussions on possible future requirements and provide delivery of scalable solutions.
In 2019, then-Enterprise Services Executive Assistant Commissioner Benjamine “Carry” Huffman introduced the concept of a Trusted Partnership that would transform the organization’s culture from a “Customer” thought process to a culture of “Trusted Partners.” The goal was to solidify a path forward of “working with” versus “working for” our CBP counterparts. The Office of Information and Technology’s Trusted Partnership Initiative commenced in late FY 2020 under the direction of Assistant Commissioner and Chief Information Officer Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia and has continued to grow and expand since its inception.
During FY 2021, the TPI effort expanded beyond the 20 internal CBP partners to include DHS, other U.S. government agencies, industry/trade partners, international agencies, countries, and other related partners. The expansion to five mission stakeholders allows partners to work “smarter and not just harder” through innovative technology, processes, transparency, interagency coalitions, and accountability. TPI has developed into a highly valued program that showcases the Office of Information and Technology’s commitment to collaboration in support of the CBP mission.
Working with internal CBP partners, the Office of Information and Technology has collaborated in a variety of areas such as Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence initiatives, cybersecurity awareness and communication, and extensive dashboards that provide CBP leadership with real-time information at their fingertips. The CBP IT Governance Council meets monthly with Trusted Partners to discuss enterprise-wide technology governance and follows up with deep-dive sessions that focus on their respective areas of responsibility.
Working with DHS partners, the Office of Information and Technology supported the processing of the largest migrant surge, 1.9 million encounters, at the Southwest Border. It completed extensive work in partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration to address the Migration Protection Protocols and related processing. Partners from the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer, ICE, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were included in the Office of Information and Technology’s “Tour of Modernizing Technology” field visits to enhance collaboration in support of shared DHS mission priorities. Working with the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer has provided a platform for cross-collaboration among sister agencies and opportunity for growth within current and emerging programs by building knowledge on CBP operations.
In addition to our DHS partners, the Office of Information and Technology also collaborated with other U.S. government agency partners to support the Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome efforts. CBP OIT provided critical infrastructure to support the airlift and processing of 83,000 evacuees from Afghanistan while working with the Departments of Defense and State, the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and DHS
Industry partnerships are key to the success of CBP’s overall mission. OIT worked with trade partners to establish the public-facing Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) Availability Dashboard. This dashboard provides the Trade community a real-time, expanded view of the ACE and Automated Commercial System applications. Optimizing RPA processes, OIT worked with partners to implement functionality that enables a non-invasive, rapid, and accelerated digital transformation, reducing human error and automating workflows to save time and costs for Trade and CBP.
Collaborating with international partners, CBP OIT and 98 countries worked to improve national security and travel for incoming international passengers to the U.S. CBP OIT represents the U.S. in deep-dive research with partner countries through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Presidential Initiative and the CBP Border 5/Migration 5 CIO Tech Forum. These partnerships produce global strategies to address common concerns such as border security, immigration, cost-effective technology, travel, and trade facilitation, cybersecurity concerns, and seamless information sharing.
TPI’s success is due to the dedication of OIT leadership and the CBP Trusted Partners who have taken a vested interest in ensuring there is constant forward momentum through continuous partner engagement. Accountability and transparency are keys to the success of TPI as relentless follow-through on action items solidify trusted partner confidence in OIT’s services and stewardship of mission capabilities. Through TPI, OIT leaders strengthen communications with all partners due to the productive growth outcomes on initiatives and the timely delivery of efficient IT services.