The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






United States Customs Service

The United States Customs Service (now known as U.S. Customs and Border Protection or "CBP") was the portion of the US Federal Government dedicated to keeping illegal products outside of US borders. It also regulated what could leave the United States and was partially responsible for who could enter the United States.

Operations are divided into two separate sections - the first of which is the Office of Field Operations (OFO) which handles duties and tax penalties along with helping to prevent contraband from entering the United States. It is primarily made up of Officers that serve as the "front-line" of CBP by monitoring and policing all international ports of entry into the United States, whether they be land, sea or air; by screening incoming and outgoing international shipments of cargo; as well as inspecting informal entries of dutiable goods by individuals through personal transport or shipment through international postal carriers (government and private). CBP Officers also handle operations regarding smuggling of contraband into the United States and control the exportation of controlled or strategic resources from the United States. Other OFO personnel include Import Specialists , CBP Intelligence Officers , and other contracted personnel responsible for record keeping, handling protest and tax penalty arbitration along with other record support functions.

Import Specialists provide the backbone of OFO by providing expertise concerning proper classification of goods for the purpose of charging duties. The primary resource for determining duty classifications is the two volume Harmonized Tarrif Schedule for the US or HTSUS , which is updated annually. Import Specialists are divided into Commodity Teams (CTs) which are assigned specific types of goods to specialize in. For example: one team may be assigned vehicles, vehicle components and ball bearings and another may be assigned clothing, textiles and toys. Each CT is assigned a more senior Import Specialist whose job it is to train Import Specialists that are new to a particular Commodity Team. These individuals are usually defacto experts in the analysis of goods that they are assigned and are often called upon to physically inspect goods entering (or petitioning to enter) the United States. They are primarily enagaged in activities concerning Formal Entries which are handled by Customs Brokerage Houses , but they also provide assistance in Informal Entries .

The other half of the United States Customs and Border Protection Service is the Office of Investigation or "OI." The Office of Investigation consists of specialized sections of Special Agents that are divided by common crimes regarding international affairs. Primary sections include Financial Crimes , Narcotics, Strategic, and Computer Forensics . The Office of Investigation also includes an Internal Affairs section that monitors and investigates allegations of misconduct and criminal activity within both the Office of Investigation and the Office of Field Operations.



Robert C. Bonner was the 17th Commissioner of U.S. Customs and is now the first Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. He was appointed by President George W. Bush and has served since 2001. The previous 16 Commissioners of Customs, their dates of service, and which president appointed them, in decending order.

  • Raymond W. Kelly, 1998-2001, William J. Clinton
  • George J. Weise, 1993-1997, William J.Clinton
  • Carol B. Hallett, 1989-1993, George Bush
  • William Von Raab, 1981-1989, Ronald W. Reagan
  • Robert E. Chasen, 1977-1980, Jimmy Carter
  • Vernon Darrell Acree, 1972-1977, Gerald R. Ford, Richard W. Nixon
  • Myles Joseph Ambrose, 1969-1972, Richard W. Nixon
  • Lester D. Johnson, 1965-1969, Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Philip Nichols, Jr., 1961-1964, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy
  • Ralph Kelly, 1954-1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Frank Dow, 1949-1953 Acting, 1947-1949, Harry S. Truman
  • William Roy Johnson, 1940-1947, Harry S. Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Basil Harris, 1939-1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • James Henry Moyle, 1933-1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Francis Xavier A. Eble, 1929-1933, Herbert Hoover
  • Ernest W. Camp, 1927-1929, Calvin Coolidge

History of the United States Customs Service

Responding to the urgent need for revenue following the American Revolutionary War, the First Congress passed and President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of July 4, 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods. Four weeks later, on July 31, the fifth act of Congress established the United States Customs Service and its ports of entry.

For over 100 years after its birth, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of funds for the entire government, and paid for the nation's early growth and infrastructure. Purchases include the Louisiana and Oregon territories; Florida and Alaska; funding the National Road and the Transcontinental Railroad; builing many of the nation's lighthouses; the U.S. Military and Naval academies, and Washington D.C.

With the passage of the Homeland Security Act, the US Customs Service passed from under jurisdiction of the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security.

On March 1, 2003, the U.S. Customs Service, along with the inspection arm of Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol combined to form the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Federal Air Marshals, along with the investigative arms from both the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service combined to form the current U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Examples of illegal items

  • Cuban Cigars, e.g. ALL Cuban products w/o a specific license for their importation
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Unscreened Fruits and Meats
  • Excessive quantities of textiles
  • Undeclared liquor over allowable limits
  • Tobacco products over allowable limits
  • Undeclared monies or monetary instruments over $10,000

External links

United States Customs & Border Protection

Last updated: 05-18-2005 14:25:23