This is a public service announcement to everybody reading and watching all that’s occurring in media and government with nexus to Border Security. We’ll call it Border Security 101 and it’ll serve to quickly educate you on the basics of what CBP is.

The largest federal law enforcement agency in America is known as “CBP” although my buddy Rodney often calls it CPB, but he’s from Ohio … or is it Illinois?!

Anyway … the acronym stands for U.S. Customs and Border Protection; this is what the agency was named when it was created in 2003 in conjunction with the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

CBP essentially merged the legacy functions of the U.S. Customs Service (Treasury), Immigration and Naturalization (Justice), and Agriculture (USDA).

CBP has approximately 60,000 personnel and is comprised on 3 main components:

  • Air & Marine (AMO)
  • Border Patrol (BP)
  • Field Operations (OFO)

Despite what you hear on the news, CBP does not stand for Customs and Border Patrol, although many leaders, to include the President, reference the agency improperly as such. The “P” in CBP stands for Protection. The agency is U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Did you know that Customs is the oldest law enforcement agency in America? Passed by the first act of Congress in 1789.

AMO wears a tan uniform; they operate the water vessels and aircraft that secure our nation’s borders. Lately it has been forgotten that there are borders on all 4 sides of the United States. Perhaps when the President’s new Space Force enters the picture, there will be a fifth border extending upwards, but that is yet to be determined. OK, now back to AMO who is often mischaracterized as a support arm; they are a law enforcement branch of CBP and a very powerful one at that. Think of them as the Air Force and the Navy of Federal Law Enforcement for America’s Borders.

The Office of Field Operations (OFO) is the largest of the three CBP components and their law enforcement personnel, known as CBP Officers are stationed throughout the United States and abroad at international locations known as pre-clearance. They wear blue uniforms and are trained to carry HK P2000, shotgun, and M4. They are generally assigned to ports of entry and functional equivalents thereof, to include airports, seaports, land borders, etc. OFO has special operators as part of their Special Response Team (SRT). There are also Agriculture Specialists who search for prohibited items in order to protect U.S. Agriculture and the farming industry.

Green uniforms are worn by Border Patrol Agents who work in between ports of entry at Sectors and are routinely tasked with securing some of the most treacherous terrain in America. They have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding law enforcement jobs in the US. They also carry the HK P2000, shotgun, and M4. BP has special tactical operators known as BORTAC.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not part of CBP. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is part of ICE. Components of the legacy agencies that formed CBP were placed within ICE in 2003. Prior to the merger, they were within the same agency as their counterparts but that changed in 2003. For instance, legacy U.S. Customs investigations and legacy Immigration investigations (Special Agents) that once worked side by side with Inspectors are now within a totally different component than CBP Officers. Many think this is not the most efficient and effective way to operate but they remain separate. We will touch more on those agencies in the future but think of HSI as the detectives and BP, OFO, and AMO as the Police Officers if that makes sense. Now imagine if the detective and police officers were assigned to separate police departments.

By no means is this article all-inclusive. It’s just some basic info. Think of it like CBP cliff notes There are also discussions to be had about trade and how goods are imported and exported. Import Specialists, Entry Specialists, and a myriad of non-law enforcement functions that are crucial to the United States economy. It’s also important to understand that the border has people and goods moving in both directions; people and goods leaving the U.S. (outbound) is critical but we’ll save that for another time too.

– Sgt. A. Merica