Container securityGAO finds large gaps in 100 percent container scanning

Published 3 December 2009

GAO says that CBP has made but “limited progress” in implementing the 100 percent container scanning mandate; CBP has not been able to achieve 100 percent scanning at any participating port; it has scanned a majority at some low-volume ports but only about 5 percent at the larger ports.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made “limited progress” in implementing 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound cargo containers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

That report is the topic of a hearing Wednesday in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, in which DHS secretary Janet Napolitano testified.

Thomas L. Gallagher writes that the report, requested by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia)., and chairman of the committee, said in part, “CBP has made limited progress in scanning containers at the initial ports participating in the SFI (Safe Freight Initiative) program, leaving the feasibility of 100 percent scanning largely unproven.”

CBP has not been able to achieve 100 percent scanning at any participating port. It has scanned a majority at some low volume ports but only about 5 percent at the larger ports, GAO said.

CBP has not developed a plan to meet the July 2012 deadline but has a strategy to expand SFI to select ports where it will mitigate the greatest risk of weapons of mass destruction entering the United States, according to the report.

CBP has not conducted a feasibility analysis of expanding 100 percent scanning, as required by the SAFE Port Act, said GAO. DHS plans to issue a blanket extension to all foreign ports by July 2012 to be in compliance with the 9/11 Act, GAO said.

The report said CBP has not conducted any cost-benefit analysis which would include other economic costs, including those borne outside the Untied States. The 100 percent scanning requirement could present challenges to the continued operation of existing container security programs, depending upon how it is implemented, said GAO.