1/28/97: U.S. Customs Recognized With Two Hammer Awards

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- On January 24, 1997, two Customs groups received Hammer Awards from the Vice President's National Performance Review. One Hammer Award was presented to Customs' Office of Investigations for its top-to-bottom reinvention of its business practices, and the second to the Drawback Regulations Team, which, in an unprecedented public-private sector partnership, created a whole new set of drawback regulations that met and exceeded both statutory and industry requirements.

"In today's rapidly changing world, U.S. Customs' mission has changed -- and we have changed with it. I am proud of the extraordinary efforts made by the employees of the U.S. Customs Service to adapt and improve our agency and how we carry out our complex mission," said U.S. Customs Commissioner George J. Weise. "These awards honoring the success of our reinvention efforts thus far will help us continue to meet new challenges and become an even better organization."

The Office of Investigations, the arm of the U.S. Customs Service responsible for investigations and intelligence, was cited by the Vice President's National Performance Review for its complete reinvention of every aspect of how it does business. Led by Assistant Commissioner Walter Biondi, the some 4,300 employees of the Office of Investigations used business process improvement and reengineering principles in improving and streamlining the entire organization. Improvements ranged from better operational management and administrative oversight to the thinning out of management layers, elimination of a number of field offices, and increased reliance on information and communication technology. The NPR also cited greater delegation of authority to field managers, establishment of an office of policy and oversight as well as a disciplinary review board, and pursuit of greater and more effective individual and organizational performance measures.

The Drawback Regulations Team, made up of both Customs and industry representatives, was cited by the NPR for creating a whole new set of drawback regulations that will not only meet the requirements of the Customs Mod Act and satisfy industry representatives, but correct weaknesses in the program cited by a 1992 GAO audit of Customs financial statements. Using interest-based problem solving, the team, led by Nancy McTiernan, created the necessary new regulations, and developed procedures to improve the efficiency of filing and processing claims, adopted an account approach for drawback claimants, and created a more consistent system with simplified regulatory language.

U.S. Customs has received 11 other Hammer Awards nationwide, including awards for the Cargo Examination Task Force in Newark, New Jersey; the Airport Operations Branch in Houston, Texas; and the Carrier Initiative Program, Anti-Smuggling Division, at Headquarters in Washington, DC. Customs has also shared 6 Hammer Awards with other federal agencies.

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