Ait Cargo Quarterly - Air cargo almost invisible in 9-11 Commission report

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

The one specific recommendation is unrealistic, says industry expert
By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOT
When it came to air cargo security, the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations were long on generalities and short on specifics. The commission’s conclusions, presented to a Congressional committee, addressed all modes of transportation and were weighted heavily toward passenger aviation. As one industry observer put it, “Cargo doesn’t vote.”
Concern over passenger aviation is not surprising given how the 9-11 attacks were carried out. But the one specific recommendation addressed to the air cargo sector “conveyed a lack of understanding about how transportation works,” according to one industry expert.
Commission chairman Thomas Kean, his deputy Lee Hamilton and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson all appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee August 16 to discuss the commission’s recommendations with regard to transportation security. The committee chairman, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), noted that, aside from improved vetting of airline passengers, “much more remains to be done.” He added that the commission’s recommendation that the Department of Homeland Security develop an integrated transportation security plan “should already be underway.”
There was some disagreement about whether that was the case. According to the testimony of former New Jersey Governor Kean, “TSA has developed neither an integrated strategic plan for the transportation sector nor specific plans for the various modes. Without such plans neither the public nor Congress can be assured we are identifying the highest priority dangers and allocating resources to the most effective security measures.” He added, “The time for planning to plan is past.”
According to Hutchinson, however, that planning process referred to by Kean is in progress. “TSA is working in close coordination” with various governmental and stakeholder entities “in developing this plan,” he said. “The Transportation Sector Specific Plan will delineate roles and responsibilities between the stakeholders and will provide a roadmap for identifying critical infrastructure and key resources, assessing vulnerabilities, prioritizing assets, and implementing protection measures…DHS, through TSA and other related agencies, will build on the foundation of the SSP to provide overall operational planning guidance on transportation security.” Hutchinson did not specify when that planning process would be complete.
Blast resistant containers?
Hutchinson added that TSA already has taken measures to secure air cargo, including directing air carriers to randomly inspect cargo. Air cargo has also been incorporated in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), through which shippers strengthen the security of their supply chains and adopt best practices. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection “is also implementing advance electronic air cargo requirements under the Trade Act of 2002,” Hutchinson noted.
Kean argued, “TSA must improve its efforts to identify and physically screen cargo.” To that end, he issued the commission’s one specific recommendation with regard to air cargo: “that all passenger aircraft have at least one hardened, blast-resistant container to hold suspect and randomly chosen cargo.”
That suggestion roused the ire of Satish Jindel, a Pittsburgh-based transportation consultant. “No passenger will want to stay on a plane knowing it is carrying suspicious cargo, even if it is in a blast resistant container,” he said. “If the cargo is suspicious, why not remove it from the plane altogether?”
Securing air cargo is a mixed bag according to Jindel. On the one hand, securing cargo is easier than securing passengers and baggage because “the number of people who fly are a lot greater than the number who ship.” That means there are far fewer individuals and entities to keep track of when it comes to cargo.
On the other hand, “cargo is very global in scope and becoming more so by the month,” Jindel said. “Cargo screening an

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American Journal of Transportation

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.