United States Customs Service – Definition

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United States Customs Service (USCS) Definition

The United States Customs Service (USCS) was a federal government agency, established on July 31, 1789, following the American Revolutionary War. This agency was responsible for collecting import tariffs and other border security duties. For more than 100 years, it was the primary source of revenue of the young nation.

However, in 2003, during Homeland Security Reorganization this agency was replaced by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, a comprehensive border security agency.

A Little More on What is the United States Customs Service

After the American Revolutionary War, the young nation was burdened with large debts from the war and ever-increasing cost of running the government. Congress didn’t enact any domestic taxes and thus the government didn’t have any revenue. In response to this urgent need for revenue, President George Washington and the First Congress signed the Tariff Act and created the US Customs Service.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the US and first secretary of the Treasury is considered to be the intellectual father of US customs service. He argued for collecting revenues by the federal government in order to support its operations. In the Federalist Papers, he further argued that lacking support for domestic taxation, import duties, and tariffs may earn the required revenue for running the government and for the public good.

Earnings from the revenues collected by the US customs service proved to be critical the nation’s growth and for the next 122 years, it represented most of the funds used for supporting the federal government. Washington DC, Transcontinental Railroad, various historic lighthouses of the nation were built with the revenue of the US Customs Service.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of federal law enforcement officers were employed by the US Customs Service for taking up different responsibilities. Custom Special Agents were responsible for investigating smuggling and other violation of laws related to customs, narcotics, and revenues. Custom Inspectors were stationed at airports, seaports, and land border ports to inspect the people and vehicles entering the US. Custom Patrol Officers were responsible for conducting patrols at the borders on land, sea, and air.

When the agency was created, it was the first and only law enforcement agency of the US. In the following years, the agency took responsibilities of enforcing any new federal laws as the growth in federal government responsibilities outpaced the growth in federal government agencies.

Later, some new agencies were created to split certain functions of the US Customs Service among them. Those include Immigration, Border Patrol, Coast Guard, and others.

Currently, the responsibilities of Customs include examining the people, products, animals, and agriculture which are crossing the border to enter the United States. It ensures that these entrants adhere to the immigration, intellectual property, environmental and consumer protection laws.

In 2003, the US Customs Service was merged with other related agencies to form Customs and Border Protection. This new agency was placed in the Department of Homeland Security.

References for United States Customs Service

Academic Research on United States Customs Service (USCS)

A prototype southern border facility to expedite NAFTA trucks entering the United States, Bochner, B., Stockton, B., Burke, D., & Harrison, R. (2001). In the Proceeding of the 80th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Paper(No. 01-0406). This paper examines the prototype plan proposed in the Texas Senate Bill to expediting the port of entry processing of commercial vehicles that enter the US from Mexico. The paper describes the basic prototype plan and examines its feasibility. The proposed prototype would use the International Trade Data System (ITDS)to expedite the process without compromising the requirements of the federal and state agencies.

Electronic Acquisition and Release of Federal Agency Information: Analysis of Recommendations Adopted by the Administrative Conference of the United States, Perritt Jr, H. H. (1989). Admin. L. Rev., 41, 253. This paper analyzes the recommendations adopted by the Administrative Conference of the United States regarding the electronic acquisition and release of federal agency information.

Research Tools in Customs Law, Fisher, M. L. (1977). Bus. Law., 33, 89. This paper discusses several books and literature that are useful for researchers who are studying the US Customs law.

New Estimates of the United States–China BilateralTrade Balances, Fung, K. C., & Lau, L. J. (2001). Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, 15(1), 102-130. The official figures of the bilateral trade imbalance provided by the United States and China differ vastly. In 1999 estimation, there was a difference of US$46.3 billion between the two estimates. This paper attempts to determine which set of figures is correct and finds that neither is completely correct. It concludes that the US trade statistics are more reliable than that of China, but they are not completely accurate.

Tracking Immigrants in the United States: Proposed and Perceived Needs to Protect the Borders of the United States, Otto, C. E. (2002). NCJ Int’l L. & Com. Reg., 28, 477. After the 9/11 attack, questions were raised about the policy of tracking the immigrants in the United States. This paper discusses the proposed and perceived need to protect the borders of the United States. It discusses how important it is to track the immigrants who entered the US with legal documentation and then overstayed.

Radionuclides identified at a US Customs Service site, Johnson, M. W., Bounds, J. A., & Steadman, P. A. (1997). Los Alamos National Lab., NM (United States). This study uses high-resolution gamma-ray spectrometer and an automated data logging system to analyze the movement of radionuclides through the U.S. Customs Service port of entry at Blaine, Washington. The study uses data of the operation collected for ten weeks. The paper provides a description of the data acquisition system and the site of measurement. The analysis of the result is done in light of the known traffic of radioisotopes that were produced at the Canadian TRIUMPH facility and used in radiopharmaceuticals in the U.S.

Illicit trafficking in the Southern Tier and Turkey since 1999: A shift from Europe?, Zaitseva, L. (2002). The Nonproliferation Review, 9(3), 168-182. This is a report on the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials through the southern tier and Turkey. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a rise in the illicit trafficking of such materials and the Southern tier became the transit corridor. This report discusses the incidents of such smugglings in these countries, assesses the responses of the governments of these countries to this threat and evaluates the supports provided by the foreign nations to restrict the illicit trafficking. It suggests a few measures to combat this smuggling with an international support.

Investigating and prosecuting Nigerian fraud, Buchanan, J., & Grant, A. J. (2001). US Att’ys Bull., 49, 39. During the last two decades of the 20s century, there was a rise of organized crimes in Nigeria. Being the largest trading partner of Nigeria, the US was often the target of the fraudulent activities by Nigerian Crime Enterprises. This paper discusses the investigation and prosecution of the frauds conducted by the NCE.

Transportation applications of simulation: simulation reduces airline misconnections: a case study, Hafizogullari, S., Chinnusamy, P., & Tunasar, C. (2002, December). In Proceedings of the 34th conference on Winter simulation: exploring new frontiers (pp. 1192-1198). Winter Simulation Conference. This paper discusses the use of simulation for evaluating an airline’s minimum connect time criteria considering the design and operational policies at its hub airports. A case study of Delta Air Lines’ planned state-of-the art-facility at JFK International Airport is used in this paper to explain the importance of simulation in the planning of the design of an airport.

What Is Asia Afraid Of-The Diversionary Effect of NAFTAs Rules of Origin on Trade between the United States and Asia, McCall, K. L. (1994). Cal. W. Int’l LJ, 25, 389. The paper discusses the diversionary effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the trade between the United States and Asia.

US Customs and Border Protection: Trade facilitation, enforcement, and security, Jones, V. C., & Rosenblum, M. R. (2013). The role of the United States Customs and Border Protection in the US import process and the import policy of the US is described and analyzed.  In the beginning, the report provides an overview of the three overarching goals of U.S. import policy and discusses the tension among them. A legislative history of US customs laws is then discussed in the paper. The current import process is also discussed in brief. Then it describes the role of the Customs and Border Protection in the import process. In the last section, it identifies several policy concerns that Congress may consider in its oversight role or in the formulation of customs or trade legislation.

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