In Case You Missed It: Only 100 out of the 1.3 Million International Packages USPS Receives Every Day are Inspected
With Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shockingly estimating that “its officers inspect just 100 of the 1.3 million inbound international packages that USPS handles every day,” there remains a clear need for intelligent, efficient solutions that address the pipeline of illegal drugs entering the country through the mail and fueling the opioid epidemic.
Four federal agencies – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – have now launched a new initiative aimed at preventing opioid trafficking into the U.S. through the global postal service. The Opioid Detection Challenge is a global prize competition that will reward innovative solutions that help law enforcement cut off the supply of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which are increasingly responsible for the nation-wide opioid epidemic.
In addition to encouraging new innovations to address the crisis, Congress and federal agencies have a responsibility to ensure that the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, signed into law last year, is efficiently and speedily implemented and enforced. This law will aid law enforcement by closing a loophole in the postal system and requiring advance electronic data (AED), which Customs and Border Protection uses to screen and stop dangerous material, on packages shipped from abroad. Without AED, CBP and other law enforcement agencies will struggle to successfully achieve this new competition’s goal of “rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail.”
The first deadlines under the STOP Act have already passed. By the end of 2018, the U.S. Postal Service was required to have AED on 100 percent of packages from China and 70 percent of foreign shipments overall. However, there is no public confirmation that these requirements have been reached. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the postal service is adhering to these deadlines, and that the STOP Act is implemented as written to close this dangerous security loophole.
An excerpt from Government Executive on the STOP Act and the Opioid Detection Challenge can be found below.
The Trump administration announced on Tuesday a new competition with interagency backing to reward private citizens who develop new tools and technologies that help identify illicit opioids trafficked through international mail.
Four agencies are collaborating to implement the competition with $1.55 million in prize money to help the administration solve an increasingly significant problem that has continued to escalate as the opioid crisis has taken hold across the country. The competition follows a reform President Trump signed into law last year that will make it harder for foreign countries to send packages into the United States if they do not provide the U.S. government with advanced electronic information about the shipments. It comes after years of investments by a slew of agencies to tackle the growing use of the mail system to traffic opioids.
CBP maintains a presence at international shipping centers operated by both private carriers and the Postal Service. Critics have faulted USPS for attracting traffickers because the agency maintains less rigorous standards than required of private shippers, something the STOP Act attempted to change.
The problem has continued to grow in recent years. CBP estimated last year that its officers inspect just 100 of the 1.3 million inbound international packages that USPS handles every day. Senate Democrats found in a report released last year that individual seizures of fentanyl increased 345 percent from fiscal years 2016 to 2017.