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A summary of views on screening all international inbound air cargo

The congressional mandate to screen not only domestic U.S. air cargo but now also screen 100 percent of all international inbound cargo continues to confound cargo carriers, freight forwarders and shippers. The Transportation Security Administration is laboring mightily to come up with a solution to this unrealistic request, but nobody seems to know how this mandate can be practicably met.

A recent article in Air Cargo World summed up U.S. and international views of different parties in the aviation supply chain — the consensus, in a nutshell, being confusion. I had the opportunity to offer a few comments, taken primarily from a previous blog I’d written (“TSA Gets Creative in Meeting 100 Percent Screening Mandate“) excerpted below.

Chris Battle, former chief of staff for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who now writes extensively about the politics of homeland security, is even more skeptical.

In a recent blog, Battle said Congress was arrogant in thinking it could dictate policy to the nearly 100 countries from which it imports air cargo. “There really isn’t a whole lot TSA can do to enforce this law outside the U.S. border,” he said. The agency should not be blamed for this and “has been heroic in its effort to comply with insanity.”

“From day one, the DHS emphasized that relying on the concept of 100 percent screening was bad security. Few people actually believed that Congress would, with one vote, undermine years of work building an intelligence-driven, risk-based supply chain security infrastructure, including extensive partnerships with foreign governments,” he said. “Congress followed through with the 9/11 Act, and now the poor folks in DHS have to pretend that this was actually a good idea all along.”

According to Battle, Sammon noted a problem with inspections in his recent testimony to the subcommittee. “TSA does not have the same inspection and compliance authorities overseas that it has in the United States,” Sammon had said. “While TSA can inspect and aggressively pursue enforcement action in the U.S. under the Interim Final Rule, any inspection of air cargo screening overseas requires the full voluntary cooperation of our foreign partners.

“Since we cannot establish a CCSP program overseas, the [National Country Security Programs] approach is a key element in helping industry to accomplish the 100 percent screening goal while also enabling TSA to ensure that inspections and compliance actions are well established by the host government programs and commensurate with U.S. security standards.”

Battle’s interpretation of this? “The U.S. will take a look at what foreign governments are doing with regard to cargo security and then pretend that they’re screening 100 percent of their cargo even though we know they’re not,” he says. “Then we can say, we’re meeting the mandate.”

You can get views from airlines, European cargo forwards, the TSA and European security officials in read Air Cargo World’s full article: “Is 100 Percent Screening Feasible?”

Chris Battle founded Security Debrief as a forum for the homeland security community to discuss pressing issues and current debates in national security, counter-terrorism and law enforcement. After a long fight against kidney cancer, Chris passed in August 2013. Read More
  • Kevin McCarthy

    Chris, we have been dancing with this topic for years, sooner or later the music is going to stop and we will be in need of a solution. You may remember I have posted several articles here on the topic. Going back to Feb 2008 in Technology Will Prove Crucial to Air Cargo Security, I opined that re-defining the term screening to a more appropriate 21st century concept would be a good start on meeting these modern challenges.

    The United States is the most technologically advanced nation in the world. By leveraging the vast creativity of our entrepreneurs, the skill of our technologists, and the computing power we have developed, there are new and outside-of-the-box means to develop additional methods of screening and approaches to protecting our supply chain’s security.
    Technologies currently on deployment supporting our armed forces use all aspects of intelligence analysis, which fuse predictive analytics into this operation to create a force multiplier. These tools are utilized in the war against the IED threat and in searching for wanted individuals and organizations. Combining these tools with airline and cargo experts, logisticians, and technologists will produce a near real time system to evaluate threats and validate the authenticity of shipments on our air transportation system. Not only will this system be more effective then 20th century methods of boots on the ground examining every box, it will also expedite the supply chain’s flow which is so very critical to U.S . businesses.