CBP chief calls for a change in container security priorities

Published 4 January 2007

Ralph Basham to insist on technologies that detect intrusions from all parts of the box, not just the door; policy a departure from predecessor’s; CBP has asked SAIC and L-3 to come up with a solution, but delivery is still pending

Refusing to be boxed in by his predeccesor’s decisions, Ralph Basham, commisioner of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, last week announced a major shift in priorities in the development of secure shipping containers. Previous policy had emphasized a two-tier process, one that recognized that technology that could detect any intrusion (not just through the main door) to a container was still in its infancy, and that perhaps the best thing was to move forward and promote existing technology that simply handled the door problem.

I’m not suggesting that you skip over a device that’s going to secure the doors,” said Basham. “I’m saying that just because you have a device that secures the doors does not mean that the container is secure. It just means that the doors are secure and not the whole container. If technology is being developed it should be toward making sure the entire container is tamper proof.”

According to Basham, recent trips to various ports convinced him that it was too easy to cut open the side or top of a container, and that door-based technology would offer little security at considerable cost and disruption. “That is the challenge. Not just the doors on the container but the entire container,” he said. “We have not reached, at least I’m not familiar with, any device out there that’s meeting that requirement.”

Earlier this year DHS awarded phase two development contracts to L-3 and SAIC to develop such so-called advanced container security devices. Delivery on these projects is pending, and so it is still too early to tell whether they will satisfy Basham’s requirements.

-read more in Calvin Biesecker’s SecurityInfoWatch report