Port terminals at the UK, Pakistan, and Honduras are the first of a batch of countries to sign up for DHSâ€™s current phase of the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI). SFI screens US-bound maritime containers for nuclear or other radiological materials. It is unclear whether the agreements, protocols, equipment, and other requirements put in place to screen for nuclear threats will be put to use for other valuable security and trade purposes.
SFI is part of the DHS response to fulfilling the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006, which requires non-intrusive scanning for nuclear material on 100% of all maritime containers headed for the U.S. Data from these inspection systems informs the National Targeting Center in its assessment of what seems threatening enough to warrant added scrutiny. SFI almost entirely focuses on the nuclear threat. Jay Ahern, CBP Deputy Commissioner, said “â€¦preventing a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb attack has to be one of our highest priorities. This initiative (SFI) advances a comprehensive strategy to secure the global supply chain and substantially limits the potential for terrorist threats,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner Jayson Ahern.
The â€œcomprehensive strategy to secure the global supply chainâ€ suggests much more than just detecting smuggled nuclear material. Subsequent phases of SFI may reveal a more robust â€“ and much needed â€“ program to view the global supply chain more strategically. The tools being developed and put in place for the nuclear threat, including bilateral and multilateral agreements, can provide significant leverage for bringing more security to the global trade flows. Illicit trafficking â€“ not only of nuclear material â€“ is always a threat in some way to some legitimate party. And the transparency that a program like SFI could generate promises the potential to do much more that detect loose nucs.
The kind of vulnerability these global flows confront carry with them a global concern for their resilience and protection, as well as their economic viability. Imagine if the Secure Freight Initiative and the Advanced Trade Data System were combined with the Proliferation Security Initiative. That would align many of the efforts and interests of DHS, DOD, DOE, State, and the Department of Commerce. It would also reflect a more â€œcomprehensiveâ€ approach to a shared concern between the U.S. and her overseas partners â€“ many of whom are reluctant partners â€“ in securing global trade against both terrorism and general threats to economic efficiencies that these global flows attempt to maximize.
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