Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 20, 2006

Port security: motivating the private sector

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on June 20, 2006

The Seattle P-I published a good opinion piece by P.J. Crowley and Robert Housman today, on the topic of port security. They make the case for the passage of the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459), and argue that the private sector needs to view security as “a core mission, not a market option.” and state that voluntary programs like C-TPAT “leave the U.S. economy vulnerable to the lowest corporate denominator.”

On the basis of this argument, they make five recommendations:

  1. Make C-TPAT mandatory for companies participating in global trade, and internationalize it through the World Customs Organization;
  2. Strengthen enforcement of supply chain security;
  3. Require companies to certify the security of their manufacturing and transport networks;
  4. Require companies to disclose in SEC filings what they’re doing to invest in security and comply with homeland security regulations;
  5. Cap liability for companies that meet strong supply chain security standards.

I agree with the general theory of this piece, and the importance of finding ways to move beyond the current paradigm of companies treating security as “overhead.” But I’m wary of making C-TPAT mandatory for every company that engages in global trade – which in theory implies every mom & pop company that sells and exports goods on eBay. A better, and more risk-based approach is to keep it voluntary, but make major efforts to sharpen both the carrots of participation and the sticks of non-participation.

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