The border management paradox
How do we strike the ‘right’ balance between security and commerce? As Governments across the world wrestle with this question - international mobility, migration, and trade volumes have accelerated at pace, placing border systems under increasing pressure to: facilitate flow; process progressively complex transactions, and; detect evolving criminal threats. COVID-19 has sharply interrupted this trend, with international passenger capacity reducing by 85% in April 20201,and global trade expected to fall between 13-32% as the world works to bring the pandemic under control.
As we look ahead, trade and travel facilitation will be key to economic recovery. Leidos foresees a shift towards contactless facilitation methods such as Non-Intrusive Inspection and biometric identification to create the frictionless border of the future - enabling government agencies and port authorities to meet border users’ ‘keep me safe without slowing me down’ expectations, whilst strengthening: economic growth, revenue collection, and national security. An effective framework that empowers a Whole-of-Government response, leveraging technology to maximise data driven intelligence is integral to this.
The UK Future Border
The UK Government’s Future Border goal is clear: To create and maintain a world class border that enhances the prosperity and security of the UK.
This ambitious statement stands against the backdrop of global COVID-19 uncertainty, and the impending pressure of EU Exit – both of which have shone a spotlight on HMG’s strategy to protect the health, safety, and security of the UK and its citizens. Whilst consensus is currently limited on the majority of topics, there is collective agreement on the criticality of how we organise, operate, and rise to the challenge of coordinated border management.
The Current Situation
Current customs and immigration systems operate in departmental siloes of layered legacy software, built up over many years to support changing regulations. With 27 Government departments working to balance priorities and manage the mass of people and goods that cross our air, land and sea crossing points every day, implementation of post EU Exit operations remains a complex challenge, in an increasingly short space of time. HMRC is forecasting a surge from the current 55 million customs declarations annually processed, to 270 million - if the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’2. This will place immense pressure on IT and physical infrastructure, alongside Border Force agents.
A Unique Opportunity
Alongside these challenges however, this landscape presents huge opportunity for change on a bold, but achievable scale. The UK cross-government Border Delivery Group and Future Borders Programme have driven significant progress in scoping and coordinating plans to ensure the border works effectively after the transition period, alongside developing international, trade, and supplier partnerships. Building on this to deliver the UK’s Future Border vision relies heavily on effective collaboration (cross-government, industry, and internationally), learning what has worked, and what hasn’t worked from other nations to create a world leading UK border, and adapting commercial and policy processes to enable: innovation, agility, and outcome based contracts that are constructed to deliver true transformation.
Leidos has a range of ideas on the most valuable way to contribute within this area. As a long-term partner to the UK and US governments, we provide fixed and mobile scanning equipment, multi-sensor surveillance systems, and integration services that include multi-modal biometrics in the United Kingdom and United States.
To move from siloed ‘border controls’ to a world leading Coordinated Border Management system, we must focus on underpinning operational activity and programmes with cross-cutting enablers. This will empower the delivery of an end-to-end border experience, with minimal friction and cost for users, based on international standards and operational best practice, supported by innovative technology with emphasis on: collaboration, trust, unification and driving value through interoperability.
Non-Intrusive Inspection as an Enabler of the UK Future Border Vision
We recommend focusing on the user, and integrating government around their journey, for example: moving towards digital customs and removing the need for a ‘wet stamp’, introducing greater use of NII, and a tiered Trusted Trader programme. This provides traders the option to pre-enrol, register their cargo and purpose, and experience minimal friction at the border - in exchange for maximum compliance, revenue collection, security, and flow facilitation for UK Government and Port Authorities.
The UK currently has capacity to intercept a minimal percentage of imports - documentary checks of non-EU goods are carried out on less than 3% of imports (compared to less than 1% of lorries arriving via Dover or the Channel Tunnel), and physical inspections on a fewer number still3. When customs do conduct documentary checks, the delay at the border can be up to three hours, with physical inspection delays sometimes reaching up to five hours4. This highlights a gap in the process and intelligence cycle, and is where NII comes in.
Using Dover as an example, just under 18,000 vessel arrivals were handled at this port alone in 20185. On the commerce side of the equation - providing the capacity to perform 100 percent scanning on traffic flowing into the country means no queues or requirements for additional ‘away from the border’ inspection infrastructure. Government agents are focused on identified threats opposed to unnecessary interventions, travellers’ gain hours of their day back, traders conduct faster, more efficient business, and the administrative burden for both government and industry is reduced. These advances have the power to transform the UK border into a tool to boost the economy significantly, rather than a commerce blocker.
Then there is the security counter balance - scanning is easy, but detecting is hard, and the difference is critical. Leidos’ solutions create a detailed radiographic image supported by easy-to-use analysis software tools and dual-energy material discrimination, helping inspectors quickly detect and intercept weapons, narcotics, explosives, and other contraband. Scanning the entire volume of goods that enter the UK would produce a mass of data, the value comes from how we analyse and turn this into intelligence. For example, correlating each bill of lading with the real-time shipment image, and deploying Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence subsystems to automate contraband detection, reducing the manual oversight workload on Border Force agents.
We would no longer need to question what is in containers – the agents and departments involved are already aware. Data analytics can then be performed on: crossing timings, frequent travellers, unexpected route patterns, linked suspicious persons and many more data elements - eliminating the ‘random’ nature of border checks, and building a complete and trusted intelligence landscape.
In conclusion, current circumstances offer an unprecedented opportunity for a holistic, pan-government approach that takes full advantage of innovative technologies to deliver on both the commerce and security aspect of the border management paradox.
For more information, visit www.leidos.com/uk-borders.
1 ICAO. (2020, April). Effects of Novel Coronavirus (COVID‐19) on Civil Aviation: Economic Impact Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.icao.int/sustainability/Documents/COVID-19/ICAO%20Coronavirus%202020%2004%2008%20Econ%20Impact.pdf
2 National Audit Office (April, 2020). Departmental Overview: HM Revenue & Customs 2019. Retrieved from https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Departmental-Overview-HM-Revenue-and-Customs-2019.pdf
3 Institute for Government, (2017, September). Implementing Brexit: Customs. Retrieved, from https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/IfG_Brexit_customs_WEB_0.pdf
4 House of Commons, (2017, January). Home Affairs Committee. Oral evidence: Implications of the UK's exit from the EU. Retrieved from http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/implications-of-the-uks-exit-from-the-european-union/oral/46107.pdf
5 Department for Transport, (2019, August). UK Port Freight Statistics: 2018. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/826446/port-freight-statistics-2018.pdf