Spanberger Presses for Elevated Funding for Know-how to Detect Illicit Fentanyl at U.S. Border

This Bipartisan Effort Comes After U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Personnel Seized 9,500 Kilos of Fentanyl in FY2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Consultant Abigail Spanberger joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues in supporting the analysis, growth, and funding of initiatives to fight the movement of fentanyl and different contraband at our borders. 

In 2022, there have been 2,490 drug overdose deaths in Virginia — and 79 p.c of those deaths concerned fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol. Border safety expertise utilized by the U.S. Division of Homeland Safety (DHS), reminiscent of Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) expertise, can detect narcotics, weapons, and human smuggling at land ports of entry (POEs). In Fiscal Yr (FY) 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) scanned 7.6 million conveyances, resulting in the interdiction of greater than 100,000 kilos of narcotics utilizing large-scale NII techniques. NII expertise additionally will increase financial savings and effectivity, as examinations utilizing NII techniques will be performed in simply eight minutes, in comparison with bodily examinations which take as much as two hours. In FY2022, NII expertise saved $1 billion in annual operational prices and between $5.8 billion and $17.5 billion in prices from delays.

In a letter to DHS Undersecretary for Safety Science and Know-how (S&T) Dimitri Kusnezov and CBP Performing Commissioner Troy Miller, Spanberger and 12 of her colleagues pressed the administration to spend money on the analysis and growth of NII expertise. Moreover, the lawmakers outlined how this expertise would equip CBP personnel with safer and simpler instruments to cease the movement of contraband into the USA. The lawmakers additionally requested a briefing on the progress made towards deployment of newly optimized passive NII muon tomography expertise at and between U.S. ports of entry. Their letter comes after CBP reported alarming quantities of fentanyl seizures — with 9,500 kilos of fentanyl seized in FY24 alone.

“To realize enhanced border safety, it’s important to proceed innovating past the present applied sciences of x-ray – together with Multi-Power Portal (MEP) techniques – at the moment deployed at POEs. In contrast to passive NII muon tomography expertise, x-ray can’t penetrate dense supplies reminiscent of lead, water, granite, machine elements, and lumber,” wrote Spanberger and her colleagues. “As you recognize, the Implementing Suggestions of the 9/11 Fee Act of 2007 required scanning 100% of U.S.-bound maritime cargo containers by 2012, which has lengthy been delayed, and the Securing America’s Ports Act signed into legislation in 2021 mandates {that a} plan be made to scan 100% of automobiles, vans, and freight trains in any respect U.S. land POEs. Nevertheless, due to the constraints of the scanning expertise at the moment deployed by CBP, solely a small proportion of cargo is definitely scanned. Passive NII muon tomography expertise might due to this fact help CBP in additional successfully securing our borders.”

Their letter continued, “Given current developments in AI and ML expertise permitting for passive muon tomography techniques to establish people inside cargo, we assist the continued development of such anomaly-detecting algorithms to additionally work in the direction of the identification of drugs reminiscent of fentanyl and different harmful contraband. These developments, aided by the deliberate S&T and CBP collaboration, would current a significant step ahead in border safety as they’d yield considerably higher transparency into what’s trying to cross our borders, together with fentanyl and different illicit substances, and would supply CBP personnel with safer and simpler instruments to safe our borders.”

Click on right here to learn the letter, and the complete letter textual content is beneath.

Pricey Dr. Kusnezov and Performing Commissioner Miller,

We write in the present day to precise our assist for the analysis and growth initiatives on the U.S. Division of Homeland Safety’s (DHS) Science & Know-how Directorate (S&T), particularly these relating to the optimization of current passive scanning applied sciences for elevated border safety. These applied sciences assist our shared objectives of securing the USA border and stopping the movement of unlawful narcotics (most notably fentanyl), illicit weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and human smuggling.

We perceive that S&T and U.S. Customs and Border Safety (CBP) are collaborating on additional optimizing passive non-intrusive inspection (NII) muon tomography expertise by way of developments in synthetic intelligence (AI) and machine studying (ML) for the detection of people and fentanyl, along with different harmful contraband being smuggled in staggering quantities at and between U.S. Ports of Entry (POEs). We wish to categorical our full assist for this vital collaboration and request a briefing inside 90 days of receipt of this letter to be stored apprised of progress made towards the deployment of this expertise and subsequent briefings after further significant progress has been made. To realize enhanced border safety, it’s important to proceed innovating past the present applied sciences of x-ray – together with Multi-Power Portal (MEP) techniques – at the moment deployed at POEs. In contrast to passive NII muon tomography expertise, x-ray can’t penetrate dense supplies reminiscent of lead, water, granite, machine elements, and lumber. Passive muon tomography doesn’t have any such limitations. As you recognize, the Implementing Suggestions of the 9/11 Fee Act of 2007 required scanning 100% of U.S.-bound maritime cargo containers by 2012, which has lengthy been delayed, and the Securing America’s Ports Act signed into legislation in 2021 mandates {that a} plan be made to scan 100% of automobiles, vans, and freight trains in any respect U.S. land POEs. Nevertheless, due to the constraints of the scanning expertise at the moment deployed by CBP, solely a small proportion of cargo is definitely scanned. Passive NII muon tomography expertise might due to this fact help CBP in additional successfully securing our borders.

Security considerations for CBP officers, truck drivers, and people being smuggled throughout the border in cargo containers additionally lead us to assist new and safer scanning applied sciences which might be radiation free (i.e., passive). As you recognize, x-ray emits harmful ionizing radiation, presenting well being points for all concerned, whereas passive NII expertise utilizing muon tomography doesn’t emit any ionizing radiation and is secure for CBP officers, different POE personnel, canines, truck drivers, and other people which may be hidden inside cargo containers. Given current developments in AI and ML expertise permitting for passive muon tomography techniques to establish people inside cargo, we assist the continued development of such anomaly-detecting algorithms to additionally work in the direction of the identification of drugs reminiscent of fentanyl and different harmful contraband. These developments, aided by the deliberate S&T and CBP collaboration, would current a significant step ahead in border safety as they’d yield considerably higher transparency into what’s trying to cross our borders, together with fentanyl and different illicit substances, and would supply CBP personnel with safer and simpler instruments to safe our borders.

We perceive that on an official journey in February, CBP and S&T officers witnessed first-hand the brand new human-detection functionality of a state-of-the-art passive muon tomography scanning system and had been impressed with the expertise and its deliberate software at POEs. Throughout this journey, these DHS officers additionally realized about how the already-sophisticated anomaly-detection algorithms are being additional optimized to detect fentanyl, which x-ray techniques will not be able to detecting, particularly when such contraband is smuggled inside dense cargo. We encourage S&T and CBP’s continued collaboration to effectively drive this optimization, and we encourage the quick deployment of this expertise the place operationally possible to considerably improve our border safety at land and sea POEs.

Along with briefings to be stored apprised of progress, we request the standing of the Know-how Wants Evaluation, which Congress, within the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, charged the Secretary of Homeland Safety to provide. This report is to incorporate an evaluation of the technological wants and gaps alongside the Southwest border and up to date technological developments, together with in muon tomography. In keeping with CBP’s FY25 Congressional Justification, this report was due on December 14, 2023.

Thanks on your service and your continued consideration to this vital matter.

###

Leave a Comment