January 14, 2009 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security
On November 25, 2008, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued the final rule on "10 plus 2," which would require shippers to provide certain information before a container can be shipped to the United States. This mandate is in addition to the 100 percent scanning mandate that has monopolized the current legislative agenda. But the fact that 10 plus 2 is industry-friendly, flexible, and adds real security to the global supply chain means that Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should not simply layer 10 plus 2 on top of the blanket mandate but instead allow it serve as a viable alternative as well as a template for future maritime security policy.
Security Policy Gone Awry
After 9/11, Congress began to consider cargo entering the United States as a prime target for an act of terrorism. While this theory was well-supported, the response to this threat was less than ideal. In the 9/11 Implementation Bill of 2007, Congress enacted a mandate requiring that 100 percent of all maritime cargo be scanned prior to entering the United States. DHS was adamantly opposed to the measure, citing security concerns. Congress moved forward anyway.
In reality 100 percent scanning does not make us safer, as demonstrated by Congress's own test pilot, the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI). The SFI showed that this mandate requires a tremendous amount of resources and may even decrease our nation's safety by providing a false sense of security to those whose job it is to protect U.S. cargo. The 100 percent scanning mandate was enacted without any thought to this measure's impact on the supply chain, industry, or consumer pocketbooks. And a recent Government Accountability Office report indicates that this mandate will hurt our nation economically and has even upset key trading partners across the globe.
While the 100 percent mandate is still on the books, DHS has strived to put in place policy that is more industry friendly, including the 10 plus 2 ruling. The final rule requires that CBP receive 10 data submissions, plus a vessel stow plan as well container status messages from a shipper prior to the shipment of cargo to the United States. There are several benefits to 10 plus 2, demonstrating that it could serve as a useful replacement to 100 percent scanning. These benefits include:
Free, Safe, and Prosperous
Congress and the new Administration must not forget the impact that security measures can have on industry. Therefore, Congress and DHS should:
While it is important that our nation continues to develop policies that protect Americans, the U.S. should not handicap the American economy in the name of security. A terrorist attack is not the only risk to U.S. security; so is the potential failure of our economy. A better course is to formulate policies that keep us free and safe without jeopardizing our ability to remain prosperous.
Jena Baker McNeill is Policy Analyst for Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.