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November 27, 2006

Container Security at U.S. Ports: The Heritage Foundation's Research


Maritime trade is vital to the U.S. economy. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, $1.3 billion worth of U.S. goods move in and out of U.S. ports every day. Moreover, many ports are located close to U.S. urban centers and other critical infrastructures. Accordingly, ports provide attractive targets for terrorists, and lawmakers have considered a range of policies to protect ports and secure the homeland. One misguided policy would require an inspection of each container that arrives in the U.S. as a means of preventing the smuggling of a dirty bomb or weapon of mass destruction by terrorists. This expensive and inefficient policy would not make Americans much safer, but it would increase the cost of many products that Americans buy. The U.S. would be better served by using the resources it would take to inspect every container for initiatives that would improve global trade security. Here are summaries of several Heritage papers addressing this topic:


"Contain yourself"

By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Robert Quartel


July 5, 2006


Some politicians want to require inspectors to look inside each container before it's shipped to U.S. ports. Supposedly, this would prevent terrorists from smuggling in a weapon of mass destruction or a "dirty" bomb (a large, conventional explosive laced with radiological material). But in reality, we'd be wasting our time and money.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/


"One Hundred Percent Cargo Scanning and Cargo Seals: Wasteful and Unproductive Proposals"

by Alane Kochems and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1064

May 5, 2006


Scanning and sealing every container will not make Americans much safer but will increase the cost of just about everything that American consumers buy.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"Trade Security at Sea: Setting National Priorities for Safeguarding America's Economic Lifeline"

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Martin Edwin Andersen
Backgrounder #1930

April 27, 2006


Securing trade requires an approach that is more comprehensive and effective than just putting up fences and gates, posting guards at ports, deploying radiation detec­tors at every entry, and inspecting all cargo contain­ers as they enter the country-approaches that would waste security resources by inspecting things that are unlikely security risks and create isolated, easily bypassed chokepoints to address specific (and unlikely) threats.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/


"Complete Cargo Inspection and Port Security Grants Do Not Promote Homeland Security"

by Alane Kochems and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Executive Memorandum #998

April 3, 2006


Spending billions of dollars and deploying thousands of personnel to search every con­tainer and harden every port is an extremely inefficient and expensive way to stop terrorists from using cargo containers, especially when they would probably use other means.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"Port Security: Four Examples of What Not To Do"

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1014

March 14, 2006


The United States already evaluates every container coming into the country and inspects the suspicious ones. This is not a perfect system-it can be improved-but it is a reasonable precaution and reasonable deterrent. Congress should do better than adopting proposals that will harm the U.S. economy while doing little to prevent terrorism.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"Port Security and Foreign-Owned Maritime Infrastructure"

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

March 9, 2006


One hundred percent cargo inspection wastes security resources by inspecting things that are not a security risk and creates isolated, easily bypassed chokepoints to address specific (and unlikely) threats.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act: A Good First Attempt"

by Alane Kochems
Executive Memorandum #989

January 26, 2006


The GreenLane Cargo Security Act is a good first attempt at securing the international supply chain. However, there is room for improvement. The leg­islation contains some excellent provisions that should facilitate information sharing and the gener­ation of actionable intelligence, but it also has pro­visions that squander limited federal resources on ineffective programs.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"Taking a Global Approach to Maritime Security"

by Alane Kochems
Executive Memorandum #980

September 22, 2005

All too often, security analysts have warned of a doomsday scenario in which terrorists use a cargo container to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the United States and detonate it in a major port, causing death and destruction, paralyzing shipping and ports around the world, and causing billions of dollars in damages. This is, in fact, one of the least likely forms of terrorist attack, yet this scenario is being used to argue for wrongheaded security solutions that would yield minimal benefits while costing billions of dollars and hamstringing global commerce.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/


"Making the Sea Safer:
A National Agenda for Maritime Security and Counterterrorism

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Alane Kochems
Special Report #03

February 17, 2005


Protecting maritime commerce from attack or exploitation by terrorists is critical to the future security of the United States. To address this challenge, The Heritage Foundation conducted a year-long project examining the for­eign policy, economic, and defense implications of this issue.

Available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/

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