Postal Service IG Testifies that the Postal Service Should Require Advance Electronic Customs Data

May 25, 2017 | Press Releases

Inspector General Audit Finds Significant Failures in Postal Service Screening of Inbound International Mail 

WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, before a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) chaired by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Acting Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb criticized the Postal Service for failing to request advance customs data on packages entering the United States and for not doing a better job of ensuring the safety and security of inbound international mail.  Here is a sampling of statements from the testimony of the Postal Service Inspector General:

“International postal regulations are beginning to change in recognition of the importance of posts providing advance electronic customs data. 

“The Postal Service can also require this data through bilateral agreements it makes with foreign postal operators. 

“Our audit work found instances of bilateral agreements where the Postal Service had not requested this advance customs data…

“At times, the Postal Service just did not present packages to CBP for inspection when requested. Instead, the packages were processed directly into the mail-stream…

Ensuring the safety and security of inbound international mail is a critical challenge for the Postal Service and CBP.  More effort is needed to quickly fix problems in the current process and to make sure CBP receives as much electronic customs data as possible.”

Her full prepared testimony can be found here.

Fentanyl and, increasingly, carfentanil are causing spikes in overdoses and deaths around the country.  China and India have been cited as the primary source countries for illicitly produced fentanyl and carfentanil in the United States.  Companies based in these and other foreign countries take advantage of weaknesses in international mail security standards to break U.S. customs laws and regulations by shipping drugs directly through the U.S. postal system.  After 9/11, Congress identified this gaping security loophole and enacted the Trade Act of 2002, which required private carriers to obtain advance electronic data.  But a similar requirement for the postal service was left subject to a determination by the Homeland Security Secretary in consultation with the Postmaster General, and it never happened. So unlike private mail carriers, the Postal Service does not require advance electronic customs data for the vast majority of mail entering the United States.

Senator Portman’s Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act — which he introduced with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) — is designed to stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders. Specifically, the bill would require shipments from foreign countries through our postal system to provide electronic advance data—such as who and where it is coming from, who it’s going to, where it is going, and what’s in it—before they cross our borders and enter the United States. 

As Acting Inspector General Whitcomb’s testimony makes clear, having this information in advance would enable CBP to better target potentially illegal packages and keep these dangerous drugs from ending up in the hands of drug traffickers who want to harm our local communities.