I have frequently commented on the reasons why 100-percent cargo scanning makes for a poorer security model than a risk-based model. There is, however, another reason to revisit the 2007 legislation mandating that the Department of Homeland Security scan every piece of cargo entering American airports and seaports: national economic security.
We are in the midst of a global economic crisis. Banks are failing. Consumer confidence is low. Businesses are contracting. Jobs are being lost. Implementing new regulations that have questionable security value and will assuredly disrupt the global supply chain process and further undermine American commerce, jobs and the economy at large seems like a remarkably bad idea.
When I joined Secretary Ridge in standing up the new Department of Homeland Security, we were given two clear mandates: secure America’s borders and ensure the continued flow of goods and people across those borders. It seems that some in Washington have forgotten the second half of our mandate.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently issued its economic forecast for 2009, asserting that the industry faces the “worst revenue environment in 50 years.” According to the IATA, Cargo traffic is expected to decline by 5%, following a drop of 1.5% in 2008. Prior to 2008, there had not been a decline in cargo revenues since 2001, when al Qaeda attacked.
It’s not just the airlines that are at risk. Every part of the economic supply chain – from manufacturers to shippers and freight forwarders to the retail industry – will feel the negative consequences these extreme security mandates. I have been told by the Air Forwarders Association that small and mid-sized companies will be put out of business, unable to afford the infrastructure requirements necessary to meet the mandates.
If the mandates genuinely improved cargo and port security, then perhaps they would be worth the damage they will inflict to our economy. But they won’t make us safer. They are designed more for the security of certain politicians than for the security of our ports.
At a time when industry is already fighting for its survival, now is not the time to further wound, perhaps fatally, key sectors that provide jobs and spur economic growth in America.