In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today (by subscription only), former Defense Secretary William Cohen and former DHS Deputy Secretary Adm. James Loy offer some sensible suggestions about how to potentially create a win-win outcome from the current imbroglio:
Congress should take this opportunity to identify the substantial gaps that exist in our current port security system and commit the funding necessary to begin to modify and upgrade our capabilities. It should also, among other actions, consult with our major trading partners to determine whether their procedures are in need of modification or emulation; compare DP World’s procedures with other world-class operators to determine what improvements should be made; and consider what management responsibilities should be imposed on DP World in addition to those required by the Department of Homeland Security. Finally, Congress should recognize that vulnerabilities will continue to exist, however stringent the security measures, and that an additional goal must be to manage the consequences of terrorist actions that go undetected or undefeated.
There are also several steps that might be taken by the parties involved to reduce the level of anxiety over the proposed action. DP World could voluntarily issue a White Paper addressing its worldwide system of running ports, with a focus on helping us understand its hiring practices and security procedures. The Treasury Secretary, who chairs the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., could clarify just how thorough the review process actually is. Both of us were often part of that process during our public service and recall it to be essentially sound. Like most executive deliberations, it occurs behind closed doors for good reason, namely, that it deals with classified materials. It is a process designed to ensure that any such foreign investments will not place the U.S. at risk.
Whether you agree with the deal or not, these are all sensible steps that can improve port security and build public confidence about the ways in which these kinds of decisions are made.