U.S. at ‘Impasse’ as 100% Scanning Deadline Approaches

Contributor:  Christopher Dauer
Posted:  03/27/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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Stephen Caldwell has almost 30 years of experience evaluating national security programs and is an internationally recognized expert on maritime security. As GAO’s Director for Maritime Security and Coast Guard Issues, he provides briefings, reports and testimony to congressional committees and individual members of the House and Senate. He has testified at almost two dozen Congressional hearings and led the research and publication of more than 125 GAO reports on these and other topics.

His recent GAO testimonies and reports evaluated a wide variety of threats and programs to protect the supply chain and critical maritime infrastructure. He pioneered some of GAO’s homeland security work to develop criteria for assessing national intelligence estimates, national strategies, and risk management.  In addition to his more recent work examining these topics, his other GAO reports evaluated a wide variety of defense, intelligence and international programs.


IDGA: We are coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA). The Act has had a major impact on Coast Guard security programs.  What about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) security programs?

SC:  The MTSA tasked CBP with a number of security responsibilities.  Specifically, it called for the establishment of a secure system of international intermodal transportation—including standards and procedures for screening, evaluating, and monitoring cargo while in transit.

IDGA: Has GAO reviewed these CBP security programs?  If so, what were the specific programs reviewed by GAO?

SC:  Since 9/11, GAO has issued more than two dozen reports on CBP supply chain security programs in its “layered security strategy.”  These programs include:

  • The Automated Targeting System
  • The 10+2 Enhancements to ATS
  • The Container Security Initiative
  • The Secure Freight Initiative
  • The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism
  • Developments of Technology
  • International Cooperation Efforts such as the WCO SAFE Framework, and mutual recognition


IDGA: These GAO reviews occurred over a number of years.  What were some of your findings across time and across the different programs?

SC: Many of these programs were jump-started after 9/11, and had problems typical of any startup program.  In our reports, we made a number or recommendations that CBP improve its strategic planning, workforce management, internal controls, cost estimates, and performance measures. As these programs developed, most of GAO’s recommendations have been implemented and the programs as a whole have matured and improved.

IDGA: Let’s talk about the 100% scanning requirement.  Did the administration’s new Global Supply Chain Strategy mention some of the difficulties of implementing that requirement?

SC: Regarding 100% scanning, the new strategy itself does not mention the still existing statutory requirement.  GAO completed a thorough report on the 100% scanning pilot program in 2009.  We cited a number of challenges which brought into question the feasibility of achieving that goal. In our report, we made a number of recommendations—for example we recommended that CBP develop more accurate cost estimates; conduct a cost-benefit analysis; conduct a formal feasibility analysis, as required by the SAFE Port Act; and after doing these, provide specific alternatives to Congress.

IDGA: Has the situation changed?  Did CBP implement the GAO recommendations?

SC: Unfortunately, and despite the issuance of a new strategy, relatively little has changed in the 2-3 years since GAO conducted that work.  While CBP partially concurred with our recommendations at that time, they have not implemented most of them.  They now indicate that these recommendations have been overcome by events.

IDGA: Does GAO still believe that the recommendations are relevant and should have been followed?

SC:  We believe that if CBP had done formal cost-benefit analysis and a feasibility analysis, it would be in a stronger position to propose alternative means of improving supply chain security… and in a stronger position to justify the waivers it is about to notify Congress about.  In fact, if these recommendations had been implemented 2-3 years ago, we might now be further along in coming to some legislative compromise and moving ahead.

IDGA: So where does that leave us now?

SC:  So here we are—still at an impasse as the 100% scanning deadline approaches.  Our industry and trading partners remain concerned about the continued uncertainty on this issue.  CBP will soon have to implement their stated intent to provide a blanket waiver to all ports, and provide Congress with advance notification to justify such a decision. But CBP still has substantial reporting requirements to Congress that will continue as long as CBP uses waivers as its preferred tool to meet the requirements of the 9/11 Act.


Stephen L. Caldwell will be speaking at IDGA’s 10th Annual Maritime Homeland Security Summit, to be held April 30-May 2, 2012 in Norfolk, Vir.  For more information on the event, visit www.MaritimeHSSummit.com, or call 1-800-882-8684.

Christopher Dauer Contributor:   Christopher Dauer

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