2005 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Allen Gina

Led national efforts to improve cargo security and prevent illicit weapons, drugs and contraband from entering the United States.

When Allen Gina started working for U.S. Customs in 1983 as an inspector at JFK airport, he had no idea that 18 years later, a terrorist attack just a few miles away would forever change the way that we view the work of Customs with combating terrorism as the new top priority. He probably had even less of an inkling that he would play a pivotal role in our nation’s efforts to revamp cargo security to protect against the threat of dangerous weapons’ being smuggled into the country. Fortunately for the country, he has been charged with this responsibility. And his experience from the front lines combined with his intelligence and leadership abilities have helped him develop a number of key improvements to our homeland security.

Allen Gina has played a critical role in implementing and directing not one, but several significant anti-terrorism programs and activities initiated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of 9/11. The Container Security Initiative (CSI), the CBP National Targeting Center and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) have contributed to a safer America by focusing on improved cargo security.

The Container Security Initiative is based on a simple idea: extend our zone of security outward so that American borders are the last line of defense, not the first. This program has set up a security regime to use intelligence to identify and target containers that pose a risk for terrorism; pre-screen those containers that contain a risk before they arrive at U.S. ports; use detection technology to quickly pre-screen containers; and promote the use of smarter, tamper-proof containers. Multidisciplinary teams from both CBP and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement are already in place at 36 ports in more than 20 countries working in concert with their host nation counterparts. Thanks to Mr. Gina’s exemplary leadership and direction as the Executive Director of CSI, the program has earned international recognition as a model for enhancing maritime security of containerized cargo.

Before taking over CSI, Gina served in such positions as Director of the Customs Industry Partnership Programs, Director of Customs Outbound Programs and the first Director of the Customs Office of Border Security (an office established immediately after 9/11). It was in this latter position that he leveraged his expertise in anti-smuggling, when charged with establishing such programs as a risk based targeting methodology and implementing a program which partners willing private sector members of the trade community with federal officials to better secure the international supply chain to the United States. The results were the National Targeting Center and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. These initiatives helped CBP and the industry to focus on where products originate, the physical security and integrity of manufacturing plants and suppliers, the background of personnel and the means and routes of shipments. Businesses have an opportunity to help the federal government with its security efforts, and, at the same time, benefit from a reduced number of inspections, reduced border wait times and reduced cargo theft.

We don’t know much about what the next terrorist attack on the United States might look like other than the fact that our enemies are likely to try something that we have never seen before. Clearly the containers that enter our ports are something that terrorists are considering as a means for smuggling illicit weapons into our country. Fortunately, Allen Gina has been in the trenches and has first-hand knowledge of how our ports work and what our true vulnerabilities are. He is putting that experience to work, and based on his successes, we can be hopeful that we will never find out what an attack involving a breech of cargo security would look like.