BROWNING: öCODE REDö WONÆT CLOSE ALL U.S. PORTS
All U.S. ports of entry will not be automatically shut down if the federal government issues a Code Red security alert, said Douglas Browning, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, in an interview Wednesday.
Browning, who spoke at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America conference in San Antonio, Texas, said established procedures for implementing the new security levels will differ from port to port or region of the country based on specific threats unearthed by intelligence agencies.
The level of security at Code Red is 'so intense that we have to be very careful when its implemented' to keep commerce flowing, Browning told American Shipper. The Department of Homeland Security may not order wholesale port closures even in the event of a terrorist attack, such as one that originated domestically without its perpetrators or their weapons having crossed the border, he said.
'Unless the intelligence says the threat is at every port of entry ' elevating security across the board may not be appropriate,' Browning said.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge raised the national security threat level to 'orange,' its second-highest threat level, this week. 'Red' is the highest alert level.
Browning said 'orange' security measures undertaken at the ports, airports and border checkpoints have the potential to cause some disruption, but in most cases the shift from 'yellow' to 'orange' 'should be transparent to the legitimate trader and the impact should be negligible'
He reiterated the agency's goal of establishing a balance between security and trade 'to create a situation where we can facilitate like we did pre-9/11 in a post-9/11 environment.
Browning expressed understanding for the hardships companies are experiencing trying to implement a host of new government-mandated security requirements, such as 24-hour advance filing of cargo declarations, but said some of the criticism from brokers and forwarders has more to do with human nature's resistance to change than problems with the actual rules.
'Anytime you ask a group of people to change their business processes, irrespective of how good the change is, it is understandable that there will be objections,' said Browning, adding that agency went out of its way to communicate with the forwarding and brokerage industry prior to last year's implementation of the 24-hour rule.
'Sure there were some post-implementation problems, but they are nuanced problems. If we had waited until we would have gotten the rule out (to address every contingency) we never would have gotten the rule out. It's not possible to anticipate every potential bump in the road,' Browning said of criticism that Customs is insensitive to how its operations impact the commercial sector.