Science and Technology Directorate of DHS: Do We Need It?

James Giermanski says bungled container security initiatives call the S&T Directorate into question.

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In short, industry has already developed and is using containers that detect entry through any portion of it, report it automatically by satellite or satellite/cellular technology. Therefore, the containers talk and respond to a central control center and can send alerts of all types including radiation detection, etc. to whomever is set up to receive those messages. These containers also provide a literal chain-of-custody feature from stuffing at foreign origin with the identity of the accountable person who supervises and verifies the cargo sent to the authorized, identified, accountable person opening and verifying the cargo at destination.

&All of this not only exists but is being demonstrated in Europe and Asia and soon in South Africa, but particularly here on the Mexican border where it is being used today. Unfortunately, DHS and CBP do not know this. Additionally, the engineering tests of the units actually operating in Europe have been found to be 100% effective and accurate.

& Industry has done this for its own reasons. Smart containers as they exist today make money. These containers make the supply chain visible and cheaper. It so happens to also provides security for the nations employing their use including the United States. Additionally, their use can provide a legal defense for the shipper or consignee because of the recent change in five rules of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which equate legally ESI (electronically stored information) to documentation.

If you would like specific information on their use, especially through our U.S./Mexican border, I can connect you to the supplier and user. I can also send you information in the way of Power Points or articles that explain more. When my WCO article comes out, I'll send you a copy.

DHS did respond by saying that container security technology will need to be recognized by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) which, of course, is false. Here's what DHS said:

In order for such technology to fully be applicable in all global supply chain operations and environments, the technology will need to be recognized and accepted as an instrument of trade by the IMO. Otherwise WCO around the world as well as various other regulatory bodies (Communications licensing and permits, Law Enforcement, Safety and Security) who would have statutory and regulation authority or responsibility on the operations and installation of such systems with regards to sea going container operations will not recognized such technologies internationally.

Here's what the IMO says:

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), its 82nd session from 29 November to 8 December 2006, and the Facilitation Committee, established a Joint MSC/FAL Working Group which met during the MSC session and began work on container and supply chain security, with a view to ensuring that the right balance is struck between enhanced security and the facilitation of maritime traffic. The Group, in its work, took into account the SAFE Framework of Standards to secure and facilitate global trade (the SAFE Framework of Standards) and the Authorized Economic Operator Guidelines, adopted by the World Customs Organization (WCO) in June 2005 and June 2006, respectively. The SAFE Framework of Standards was developed by WCO in response to a request from the 2002 SOLAS Conference which adopted SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code.

The facts are that there is no requirement or needed recognition by the IMO of container security systems for those systems to be used in global commerce. In fact, the IMO working group is a relative new entity with the IMO whose purpose is to facilitate WCO standards of container security practice like the AEO or C-TPAT, not in any manner recognize container security hardware. One of the fundamental issues in container security is that the world has no single international standard as exemplified by the divergence of standards such as those of the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) with national standards like ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and industrial standards like EPC (EPCglobal, Inc. which alone is in about 100 countries). Additionally, no government is obligated to accept or implement any certain standard. This is especially true for container security.

DHS also said this: Further the acceptance of any technology by either industry or governments will have to be open standards without any proprietary restrictions and to have a security valve from a DHS perspective that must be accurate and reliable in its detection and communications while in operations in any global supply chain route from time of stuffing to de-stuffing of the container and be without third party access to such security information.

This response speaks for itself and appears to be its rationale for the role of S&T.

It looks like DHS is in an area about which it knows little, and is grasping for some validation. The fact remains: It is unlikely that it will learn much from universities and research firms with respect to the relationship between supply chain management and container security without input from or experience in commercial supply chain operations and in-the-field container security problems and challenges. DHS does not demonstrate depth or experience in the field that is necessary at decision-making levels to meet carry out its responsibility in facilitating end-to-end container security. Clearly, Homeland Security research can and should be done, but at what cost and result? Paying for R&D within DHS constraints like the requirement of a 99% confidence levels for CSDs in field usage, in uncontrolled handling and shipping environments, especially for use in container security, may be academically appropriate for laboratory work with pharmaceuticals, but pure nonsense for operational use in a global supply chain. More than that, spending tax dollars to develop what already exists, is not just wasteful, it's foolish, and naturally at the expense of more meaningful and productive research. DHS research should be driven by and in the direction of operational usage, efficacy, productivity, and commercial value since those who would use it must have a financial or efficiency return. ##

James Giermanski is President of Powers International, LLC.






5. e-mail message of September 9, 2009 at 12:12 p.m.

6. e-mail message of September 9, 2009 at 12:12 p.m.







13. Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Section 1554


15. Robert W. Kelly, JD, Containing the Threat: Protecting the Global Supply Chain Through Enhanced Cargo Container Secuity, The Reform Institute, October 3, 2007, pp.8-9.

16. e-mail of September 10, 2009 at 11:27 a.m.

17. under the "Container Security" link on its home page.

18. Jim Giermanski and Peter Lodge, Tolerating Reasonable Risk, Frontlines Column, Journal of Homeland Security, July 2007, p. 8, and Giermanski and Lodge, The Problem of Errors, DHS, and the False Positive' Standard, October 2007,

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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