Despite stepped-up efforts to secure the nation's ports after 9/11, the U.S. government has fallen far short of its goals. A report on a three-year congressional study concluded that "America's supply chain security remains vulnerable to the proverbial Trojan Horse— America's enemies could compromise the global supply chain to smuggle a weapon of mass destruction, or even terrorists, into this country." The report was prepared by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
After reviewing the results of various government security initiatives, the subcommittee concluded that most simply haven't worked out as planned. Take the Container Security Initiative (CSI), for example. CSI was intended to increase inspections of high-risk shipping containers before they enter U.S. ports. But the study found that only a minimal number of high-risk containers are actually inspected. It also noted that the U.S. government has yet to establish minimum standards for these inspections.
The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) fared no better. C-TPAT was set up to encourage shippers to police their own supply chains. Shippers who join the program and agree to comply with specific standards face a lower risk of inspection delays. The study found, however, that Customs largely relies on the participants' word that their operations comply with C-TPAT's standards. To date, Customs has audited only 27 percent of the participating companies.
The subcommittee also found fault with the targeting system used by the government to identify high-risk shipping containers. The system depends largely on what the report termed "the least reliable" form of data for targeting purposes. Furthermore, it said, the targeting system has never been validated for effectiveness.
As for the government's record of checking containers for nuclear or radioactive materials, the story was pretty much the same. The study found that less than 40 percent of cargo containers entering U.S. ports are screened for nuclear or radioactive materials. One problem is that the deployment of radiation detection equipment has fallen well behind schedule. As of March 2006, the Department of Homeland Security had deployed only 30.8 percent of the necessary radiation monitors. For a complete copy of the report, visit www.nitl.org/cargosecurity.pdf.