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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 4, 2003

Secretary Ridge Inaugurates New Homeland Security Program at Southwest Border
FAST Program to Tighten Security and Expedite Movement of Trade Across Border

El Paso, TX – A key U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program to counter terrorism and to facilitate trade has been extended to the U.S./Mexico border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced today.

The program, Free and Secure Trade (FAST), provides expedited CBP processing for companies that adopt CBP-approved security measures. To be eligible for FAST treatment, manufacturers, importers and carriers must participate in another CBP antiterrorism program, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism or C-TPAT. Under C-TPAT, companies develop and implement security plans to enhance operational security. These measures vary depending on factors, such as the nature of the business and where in the globe a firm conducts its business. Each security plan is reviewed by CBP supply chain security experts.

Truck drivers seeking FAST eligibility must submit information enabling CBP officials to assess whether the applicant poses a risk. Approved applicants receive a FAST-Commercial Driver Identification Card.

Additional security features are also built into FAST for the US/Mexico border. Manufacturers and carriers participating in US/Mexico FAST are required to use high security mechanical seals on all containers or trailers destined for the United States. Customs and Border Protection will continue to scrutinize these shipments with enforcement tools such as X-ray technology, canine screenings, and other equipment to help ensure that the integrity of the FAST program is not compromised. CBP also expects that the additional security will enhance its continuing drug interdiction efforts along the border.

"Mexico is one of our largest trading partners and it is absolutely critical that we prevent terrorists from infiltrating the commercial chain to launch an attack," said Secretary Ridge. "I anticipate the same degree of success with FAST on the Mexican border as we've seen on the Canadian border."

FAST lanes have been operational on the US/Canadian border since September 2002. By utilizing private sector resources and cooperation, FAST protects cross border commercial shipments from being infiltrated by terrorists and streamlines CBP processing of these shipments.

"This is another important step in providing the maximum amount of protection for our people and for our economy," said Robert Bonner, CBP Commissioner. "Installing FAST on the southern border will also speed up the importation of legitimate goods from Mexico into the U.S."

To expedite processing of FAST shipments, special FAST lanes are available to program participants at designated ports of entry. In addition, special radio frequency transponders on FAST trucks transmit information about commercial shipments, which further expedites processing.

The US/Canada FAST program currently is operational at five northern border ports of entry - Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan; Buffalo and Champlain, New York; and Blaine, Washington. The US/Mexico FAST program debuted today in El Paso.

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