Agencies and government leaders around the world are starting to get it – security and efficiency are mutually dependent and effectively addressing risk requires a focus on both. The White House released today its National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, which presents the international supply chain as critical to America’s national security. It aims at realizing a secure and efficient supply chain and also speaks to resilience and harmonization – which is in line with the current efforts of the joint CBP/TSA Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) initiative. Having one of the most powerful organizations in the world include efficiency and coordination in its national strategy speaks volumes about the direction we are heading in cargo security.
The strategy – which is not an executive order but rather a guide for federal agencies – offers two primary goals: to promote the secure and efficient movement of goods and to foster a resilient supply chain. The focus areas under each goal are somewhat predictable. To promote the movement of goods, the strategy calls for improved verification and detection capabilities as well as maximizing the flow of trade by “modernizing supply chain infrastructure and processes to meet future market opportunities.” These are issues the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the private sector and others have been working on for years. Still, it’s nice to know the president is in our corner.
This focus on efficiency is a far cry from past governmental security efforts, like the 100 percent screening rule, which called for screening all cargo on passenger planes, no matter the impact to the private sector or the international supply chain. While the air cargo and logistics industry overcame this significant challenge, it is not the most effective approach to cargo security, particularly on an international scale. In air cargo, we sell speed and efficiency, and it is important that our security efforts are aligned with these all-important logistics offerings. Thankfully, the supply chain strategy seems to reflect this.
The strategy also covers resilience, an increasingly dominant issue in homeland security. As important as preventing threats is ensuring U.S infrastructure, society and commerce can return to normal operation as quickly as possible following a natural or human-caused disaster. Much of the damage disasters cause comes in the cascading effects that follow the event. The strategy calls for “risk management principles to identify and protect key assets, infrastructure, and support systems” as well as to develop policies and programs that support “a coordinated restoration” of the supply chain after a disruption.
In reviewing the strategy, it is apparent the administration is coming to appreciate another important issue for air cargo security – harmonization and collective effort. The strategy notes its approach is to “promote integrated and collective action among all levels of government, the private sector, and other key stakeholders.”
Real security requires real partnerships and an integrated approach to addressing supply chain threats. Sharing information and best practices, aligning security approaches with business models, and coordinating on an international level to screen and secure threatening cargo – working together on these issues, we magnify our efforts and compound the security we realize from it.
Will the White House strategy yield real results in the ongoing effort to secure the supply chain? Time will tell, but the strategy is certainly evidence that increasingly, the key issues our industry has identified as critical to supply chain security are being taken up by our public sector partners.