1997 Finalist
Dade County, Florida
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

During the summer of 1995, the processing of international arriving passengers at Miami International Airport nearly grinded to a halt. The several departments that were responsible for the inspection of arriving passengers had become compartmentalized, causing a fractured approach to the processing system. As the flow of arrivals increased, and efficiency became even more imperative, the agencies often ended up pointing fingers at each other in frustration. Because Miami is an important gateway for trade and tourism with Latin America and the Caribbean, this problem had the potential for severe ramifications.

The Miami International Airport Reinvention Lab improves the processing of international arriving passengers without compromising the integrity or security of the federal inspection process. In the past, the many agencies involved in the processing system worked towards different goals under different rules. Coordination was complicated and hampered by different standards of success and barriers between the working groups. The Reinvention Lab creates a synergy between the federal and local governments, international airlines and international baggage porters by uniting them under a common goal bound by improved communication.

Central to the Reinvention Lab is a monthly meeting of seventy employees from the airport community. Most come from the Federal Inspection Service Agencies, the Metro-Dade County Aviation Department and the international airlines. During these monthly meetings, employees breakdown into five subgroups: Facilities, Passenger Flow, Informed and Enforced Compliance, Equipment and Technology, and Training. This allows employees are able to focus on specific methodology innovations and intradepartmental coordination.

Through these meetings, the Reinvention Lab has been able to produce a number of areas of coordination, an improvement that has yielded overall success. Previously, the airport operator built facilities and expected the federal agencies to accept what was built. Now, all members of the Lab design facilities that are more "process-friendly." Technology improvements have also played a significant role. Changes in the federal border agencies' Advanced Passenger Information System has resulted in a 40 percent decrease in the immigration processing time at Miami International Airport. The Lab has also replaced manual baggage check-in with barcode scanners.

A final aspect of the Reinvention Lab is the emphasis placed on customer service, not just through improved processes, but also through direct information services including a redesigned Website and an in-flight video concerning the international processing system. These channels help to ensure that the Lab's improvements are augmented by informed customers.

The results of this program have been considerable. Overall improvements, depending on the concourse, have ranged from 40 to 60 percent. Customs inspectors have seen improvements of 22 percent on heroin seizures, 39 percent on cocaine seizures, and 7 percent on agricultural seizures. The final measure of improvement has been the reduction in processing time for the average arriving airline passenger by 35 to 39 percent.