As flights streamed out of Kabul International Airport and images of evacuating Americans and Afghan partners flooded screens across the world, the men of women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection were leaping into action to address the developing crisis. CBP employees across all organizations worked together to adapt to the unfolding situation, and the CBP One mobile application team stands as a shining example of the agency’s ability to leverage systems and knowledge to overcome obstacles.
CBP One is a mobile application that acts as an intuitive single portal for travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile apps and services such as I-94 and appointment features. The team works in the office of the Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Information and Technology. They have exemplified adaptability throughout numerous challenges on the Southern Border, and they took those lessons learned to support our partners and the processing of thousands of individuals.
“When Operation Allies Refuge started rolling, we were confident we could enhance the capabilities of CBP One to address the particular needs of the operation, said Samantha Kapoor, IT supervisory specialist. “The team worked together to plan and coordinate our response to provide the best possible solution to address mission demands.”
The men and women who developed CBP One successfully adapted it to capture biographic and photographic data that CBP used to vet and schedule individuals in the Migrant Protection Protocols and with Title 42 exemptions. This required coordination with the Office of Field Operations, directorates in OIT, and international organization partners inside Mexico. In addition, CBP One was enhanced to offer a mechanism for the Transportation Security Administration to utilize biometric or biographic data to verify the identity of these undocumented non-citizens prior to granting access to secure areas at domestic airports.
The CBP One team’s past success showed they were equipped to support OAR and partner agencies. The team modified the functionality to once again empower TSA agents to identify domestic travelers using the CBP One application but now against the OAR targeting platform. This enables TSA to validate refugees’ boarding passes against the results of the photo or biographic query and provides safe and timely domestic travel for Afghan refugees who have arrived in the U.S.
“The innovative culture of the Emerging Technology Team led to the development of a platform that continues to meet evolving mission needs under seemingly unattainable deadlines. This culture combined with their work ethic and partnerships within OIT resulted in repeated enhancements implemented in timelines that exceed expectation,” said Tricia Kennedy, acting director, Strategic Transformation Office and CBP One product owner for OFO.
In addition to tailoring CBP One to safeguard domestic flights and foster travel, the CTO team also contributed to OAR with other innovative technological solutions. The Robotics and Process Automation team developed three bots that saved countless hours and provided support to partner agencies. The team digitized flight manifest information to allow the National Targeting Center to extract passenger information to use in CBP systems. This bypassed the need to manually enter data and was crucial to maintaining speed in the fast-paced operating environment.
The team also created a script to convert data provided by multiple agencies, to include the State Department and the Department of Defense, into a format that the National Counterterrorism Center needed. This increased the speed in processing passengers, and taken together, these innovations were critical in maintaining the operational tempo OAR demanded.
“OIT employees have always responded immediately to our nation’s challenges and with a professionalism that is unmatched,” said Sonny Bhagowalia, assistant commissioner of OIT and CBP chief information officer. “I could not be prouder to lead these men and women and celebrate their success.”