Security flight plan
COAC, DHS tackle redundant air cargo regulations.
By Eric Kulisch
An advisory group to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is creating a chart to show all competing security regulations and private sector standards facing the air cargo industry, and help policymakers coordinate decisions across government.
The Commercial Operations Advisory Committee, composed of 20 industry participants, unveiled at its Aug. 5 quarterly meeting a draft matrix of air cargo security programs administered by the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other organizations ' and the resulting compliance demands on various parts of the supply chain.
The goal of the exercise is to identify overlapping regulations and potential areas in which rules or operational practices can be fused to improve the efficiency of government agencies and reduce the impact on industry, said Barbara Vatier, managing director of cargo services for the Air Transport Association and chairman of COAC's air cargo subcommittee. The matrix can also help lawmakers and regulators take a holistic approach when considering new rule changes, rather than addressing a narrow jurisdictional area without regard to existing requirements, she added.
CBP's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism is a voluntary program under which importers, air carriers and other trade sectors implement approved internal security controls governing the shipment of international cargo. A satisfactory field visit by CBP officers allows a company to gain status as a trusted shipper subject to fewer inspections. The TSA's version of a domestic trusted shipper program is the new Certified Cargo Screening Program that allows shippers and freight forwarders to prescreen their own cargo to avoid screening by airlines and potential airport delays. All cargo carried on passenger airlines, including international flights departing from U.S. airports, must be screened beginning next August, as mandated by Congress. The law applies to domestic inbound flights too, but TSA does not have the jurisdiction to implement the same program overseas.
|'There are a lot of commonalities among programs, but the details of the reguirements are different because those programs are all serving different masters.'|
|Kim Costner Moore
manager for cargo
TSA also manages the Known Shipper Program for freight forwarders and passenger air carriers to qualify shipping clients, and other security requirements specific to sectors of the industry.
The matrix is similar in concept to two detailed charts published in the spring of 2008 by the American Association of Exporters and Importers that provided a visual representation of all the international trade security regulations and advanced data filing requirements that industry faces.
Expansion of security demands in recent years means a company like BDP International has to absorb the cost of training its personnel to comply with C-TPAT, TSA programs and Department of Transportation hazardous material handling requirements for air cargo, said COAC member Michael Ford, vice president of regulatory compliance and quality for the Philadelphia-based logistics provider.
TSA and CBP officials said the chart is a useful tool for identifying potential regulatory streamlining at a high level, but noted that the subcommittee also found that what appears on the surface to be duplicate enforcement activities are often similar but not necessarily identical.
'There are a lot of general commonalities among programs, but the details of the requirements are different because those programs are all serving different masters,' Kim Costner Moore, the TSA's assistant general manager for cargo security, told COAC.
Nonetheless, she added, there 'definitely' are opportunities for DHS agencies to leverage each other's strengths and improve harmonization, including through mutual recognition of companies that have passed a security review for C-TPAT or its TSA equivalent. That way a company in both programs would only have to provide certain information or get reviewed once.
DHS is conducting a parallel review of its existing air cargo security strategy and how it can incorporate the best parts of industry security programs too, she added.
TSA officials have previously acknowledged they are working to obtain the results from CBP's Automated Targeting System, which analyzes cargo manifests, entry data and other information for risk to determine which shipments require inspection, and plug the international shipment data into an enhanced system of their own.
CBP specialists have also demonstrated to TSA how they vet companies in C-TPAT and the two agencies are collaborating in other areas that may lead to integration of their programs.
The TSA is also learning more about product safety programs administered by two other agencies ' believed to be the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission ' to see if they can help meet the screening mandate because they have a very high bar for security, Costner Moore said at COAC's previous meeting on May 6. She declined afterwards to go into detail because the security protocols are considered sensitive information that is only shared with regulated industry parties.
If DHS were to establish a universal program that satisfies all the different agencies 'it could possibly have the most stringent requirements and be more of a burden on the industry,' cautioned Aileen Suliveras, CBP's director of cargo verification, at the May meeting.
Acting CBP Commissioner Jayson Ahern agreed that it is better for the government to check for redundancies and possible unintended consequences before programs are implemented, as opposed to doing so after the fact.
DHS made mistakes in that regard in the first few years after its creation in 2003 because of the pressure to move quickly on anti-terror measures, he acknowledged.
'As we continue to mature as a department, we're learning from some of those rapid decisions we made. We need to coordinate much more than we did in those early years.
'I think we're on that path. We need to make sure we stay on that path going forward and have the right level of consultation up front,' Ahern said.
Vatier said there really are two matrices at the moment because one includes sensitive security information, as defined by TSA, and that the goal is to sanitize that information and roll it into a single matrix for easier viewing.
The COAC subcommittee will work with some outside experts to fill gaps in the compendium of security regulations and requirements, Vatier said. A final version of the matrix will be ready for the next COAC meeting on Nov. 4, along with recommendations on how to improve coordination between government agencies, she said.
Interested parties are encouraged to view the security chart and submit suggestions to COAC.
The draft air cargo security matrix can be found on CBP's Web site (www.cbp.gov) by going to the Trade button, and then COAC under the Trade Outreach section.