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Customs and Border Patrol: Import Specialist and Contract Specialist Jobs

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Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers may be the most visible employees of the Customs and Border Protection agency. But they are not the only ones that enable the CBP to fulfill its mandate of keeping the United States safe from those who might want to enter the country illegally. These agents may be in the frontlines but there are those who work in support positions as well. Two of these are those held by Import Specialists and Contract Specialists.

Because of the growth in world trade, the CBP has to ensure that trade rules are complied with and see to it that importers and exporters follow the rules and policies relating the flow of goods in and out of the country. This is the job of Import Specialists. They are primarily responsible for the classification and appraisal of a part of the billions of dollars’ worth of commercially imported merchandise that goes into the United States each year. They choose which products are given permission to enter the country legally through the enforcement of laws that protect public health and safety, intellectual property rights, and fair trade practices. When necessary, they become part of the criminal enforcement team that investigates cases of smuggling, commercial fraud, and counterfeiting. 

It will be mandatory for all new Import Specialists to undergo seven weeks of specialized training. They will be given instruction on import and export trends, commodities, industries, and complex international trade agreements. After the training, they are expected to develop and expert knowledge of these subject matters. If you meet the basic qualifications for this CBP position (check out the CBP website at and possess discipline, organizational abilities, and analytical skills then you can consider being an Import Specialist.

The CBP would not be able to perform their job successfully if they don’t have furniture, telecommunications equipment, ammunition, and surveillance equipment. This is where Contract Specialists come in. Contract Specialists, meanwhile, are tasked with the solicitation, negotiation, administration, closing, and termination of all purchase orders and contracts. They are also responsible for developing, implementing and reviewing contracting plans for pre-award, post-award, price/cost analysis and a wide variety of procurement activities as well as providing technical advice, guidance and legal interpretation in all areas of contracting.

Qualifications for becoming a Contract Specialist include completion of a bachelor’s degree with a major in any field; or 24 semester hours in any combination of such fields as accounting, business, finance, law, contracts, purchasing, economics, industrial management, marketing, quantitative methods, or organization and management. If applicants have an additional one year of specialized experience in such areas as requisitions review; bids or proposals evaluation; and coordination of contracting activities with other government agencies then they will qualify to be hired at the GS-9 level. But for those who are already involved in GS-9 level functions such as that of planning and carrying out pre-award, post-award, price/cost analysis and the like then qualifying at the GS-11 is possible.

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