DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the United States is no longer going to screen every cargo container before it enters the United States
Yesterday, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff publically acknowledged the obvious when he announced that DHS will not meet the 2012 deadline set by Congress to scan every cargo container that comes in to U.S. ports. For those of us involved in the industry, the announcement is hardly surprising.
In recent years, Homeland Security officials have emphasized the need for a risk-based approach to cargo screening to provide a high level of security while also allowing for the free flow of goods into the United States through the international supply chain. Despite this success, Congress passed a law last year mandating the 100-percent screening of all cargo shipments coming into the United States. Rather than implementing such a restrictive mandate, Congress should consider collaborating with the private sector to find sensible alternatives for supply chain security. This is precisely the point that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made in a recent speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., where he argued that the government should not try to “micromanage the business operations” of U.S. companies, but should look to partnerships between government and industry to protect the cargo shipment sector and our vital transportation infrastructure.
As Chairman of the Safe Commerce Coalition, I’ve spoken to a number of audiences lately about the issue of cargo and supply chain security. I find myself often having to remind folks that when we stood up the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we had a two-fold mission when it came to border security. First was to secure the borders. The second mission, which is sometimes forgotten, is to maintain the free and efficient flow of commerce and people.
We see the “100 Percent” debate playing itself out between DHS and Democrats on the Hill — in the areas of employee screening at our nation’s airports, the screening of air cargo, and the screening of shipping containers coming from overseas. In all these instances, Democrats have passed legislative mandates requiring DHS to implement the costly solution of 100% scanning. DHS has been correct to push back, and they should do so more forcefully.
The Heritage Foundation will host next week a forum on cargo security entitled Homeland Security and Inspecting Shipping Containers: Debating the Way Forward. Two of Security Debrief’s contributors will participate – former DHS Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who is also now head of the Safe Commerce Coalition, and Dr. James Carafano, who is the senior fellow for foreign policy, homeland security and counter-terrorism issues at the Foundation.
The 2004 Madrid subway attacks and the 2005 London subway and bus attacks demonstrate that the terrorists consider passenger rail and mass transit as preferred targets. The rising fuel costs for automobiles and congested air travel could logically push more passengers to rail throughout the course of the year and beyond. This is where DHS and DOT should place their emphasis.
By Kevin R. McCarthy, Special Guest to Security DeBrief
Board of Advisors, SPADAC Inc.
Scanning 100% of the packages that process through this system is a focus of the 9/11 Bill. Many people interpret this process as being similar to the treatment a traveler’s bag receives at the airport security checkpoint. Logistically, however, this is simply impossible. Implementing the 100% requirement will create a net effect to completely cripple our economy.