CBP CIO says agency ahead of schedule migrating apps to the cloud

Customs and Border Protection is ahead of schedule with its cloud migration, having moved nearly half of its inventory of applications to the cloud.

CBP Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia said agency officials expected to have 32% of about 270 apps migrated to the cloud this year, but at this point in fiscal 2021, he said CBP has migrated about 45% of its apps to the cloud.

“But now it gets harder as we get into high-value assets,” Bhagowalia said Wednesday at FCW’s Digital Transformation Workshop, adding that the remaining migrations involve non-commercial systems that are essential to CBP’s trade, travel and national security missions.

CBP is running a parallel data center strategy along with its cloud migration and looking at how 5G could enable faster transfer of data.

“The world is transforming where mobility and the power of computing is coming right to your fingertips, but also then there’s a need for the pull of information and push of information,” Bhagowalia said.

CBP stands up RPA, AI centers

Beyond the cloud, CBP is ramping up its ongoing digital transformation work through an acceleration of its automation projects.

Bhagowalia said CBP has stood up a robotic process automation center of excellence, and automated more than 45 workflows over the last 12 months, saving employees thousands of labor hours on repeatable, mundane tasks, “leaving people free to concentrate on knowledge-based activities.”

Bhagowalia said CBP has 110 bots already in production, and has another 50 in development.

Meanwhile, Bhagowalia said he recently signed off on a memo creating an AI center of innovation “to support and create a scalable foundation to leverage AI.” AI, he added, will help the agency process terabytes of text and images to assist in some of the agency’s hardest mission problems.

The AI innovation center, he said, is led by CBP’s innovation team within the commissioner’s office, and will provide data enrichment, data libraries and create a community of practice around AI.

CBP improving customer experience

CBP is also rethinking customer experience as part of its modernization effort. The agency last fall created CBP One, a mobile app that acts as a single portal for travelers to access agency services such as CBP ROAM, which allows recreational boaters to report their entry into the U.S. Bhagowalia said CBP customers can also book appointments through the app.

Bhagowalia said the app has received more than 54,000 downloads from the iOS and Android app stores.

CBP is also taking steps to improve experiences for its employees. Bhagowalia said the agency is standing up a “one-stop-shop” marketplace for staff to order commonly purchased items like laptops and desktop computers.

Bhagowalia said this internal marketplace would consolidate purchasing and would link up to the agency’s inventory of assets it already owns. CBP buys about $1.5 billion in goods a year.

“We’re trying to replace previous multiple procurements into a larger, one-time procurement and achieve efficiencies in the requisition processing and more competitive pricing,” Bhagowalia said.

CBP is also updating its app for agency employees to submit non-emergency requests to the IT help desk, and has stood up a portal that enables enhanced search capabilities to look up contractor background investigation records.

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