Every year, $4 trillion in goods enter and exit the United States, with an average of $10 billion going in and out each day. Traditionally, importers and exporters have been required to submit paper forms to multiple federal agencies in order to get the necessary approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to move goods across the border. This process is cumbersome and can add unnecessary time to shipping, fostering waste and inefficiency.
However, one CBP employee has dramatically changed the paperwork submission and approval process to make it more efficient. Brenda B. Smith, the Executive Assistant Commissioner for Trade, organized and oversaw the implementation of the Single Window online portal that allows shippers to deal with all regulatory agencies on one platform.
She sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER to discuss how she led the development and implementation of this portal.
Smith is currently a finalist in the Management Excellence category for the Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medals, or the SAMMIES—an award that recognizes all the awesome work federal govies are doing.
Automating the paperwork submission and approval process is no easy task. Smith emphasized that a few elements were key for this all coming together. She explained that direct guidance on the necessity of the project from CBP leadership helped initially get her and her team together and on track. From there, Smith credits the leadership support from CBP and the Department of Homeland Security for guiding the project’s priorities and helping address challenges as Smith and her team came across them.
Another key thing for the success of the Single Window portal was getting all the necessary agencies on board. In order to address this challenge, Smith explained that they positioned CBP as a service provider instead of a regulatory body. “Many of the agencies are smaller and don’t have the resource that CBP has to focus on trade, she said. “So when we came in we told them that we want to work with them so they can execute their mission.” This helped Smith bring together key stakeholders from across agencies.
While Smith may have accomplished a huge project management feat with the development and deployment of the Single Window, she was the first to admit that she didn’t grow up dreaming of creating an automated trade solution. However, she did grow up knowing that she wanted to give back to her country like her father had before her. She explained, “my dad was a career civil servant and he often about how rewarding the opportunity to serve and the ability to make change and this was very attractive to me.”
Smith’s advice to burgeoning govies? “If you want to change the world, the federal government is the place to do it. Don’t worry about the title, don’t worry about the money, just do the work that makes you want to get out of bed every day and come in and do your best,” she concluded.