AnalysisIntegrating private sector elements into maritime security plan

Published 27 February 2006

As the story above shows, the United States is very concerned about a nuclear weapon arriving by sea. A ship-borne cargo container offers an easy way for terrorists to smuggle the weapon into the U.S., and a nuclear explosion in a major port would be devastating: Not only would thousands of lives be lost, but maritime commerce, essential to the U.S. well-being, would be seriously disrupted. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) estimates that the closure of even a single major port for one month may well cost the United States more than $60 billion in economic losses.

Veronique de Rugy, a fellow a the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), examines the contribution private sector companies can make to thwarting such a catastrophe. She notes that in FY2006, President George Bush requested a budget of $2.03 billion for port security out of a $50 billion budget for homeland security activities government-wide. The issue is not how much money is being allocated for a certain mission, but how effectively it is being used. In the case of preventing a nuclear device from arriving at a U.S. port, the money should go, first, toward protection of stockpiles of fissile materials, and then be used on keeping nuclear weapons and terrorists out of U.S. ports by implementing security mechanisms to prevent nuclear devices from ever arriving in the United States in the first place.

De Rugy analyzes two DHS programs — the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) — aiming to improve cargo security without disrupting commerce. C-TPAT will receive $54.3 million in FY2006. Investigations by Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, found problems with these two key cargo security programs. De Rugy points to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) analysts Carter Pate and McKay Henderson (“Cargo Security White Paper: Independent Verification of C-TPAT Cargo Security Controls”), which proposes that a private sector, independent third-party verification process be integrated into the