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January 27, 2015

CBP Must Improve Supply Chain Security Policies

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) role in supply chain security. Since August 2007, CBP has been required to ensure that all U.S.-bound maritime cargo containers be scanned at foreign ports before being placed on vessels headed to the U.S.

In the report, entitled "Supply Chain Security - CBP Needs to Enhance Its Guidance and Oversight of High-Risk Maritime Cargo Shipments" (GAO-15-294), the GAO found that:

  • From FY 2009-2013, less than 1 percent of maritime shipments arriving the U.S. were identified by CBP as high risk.
  • However CBP did not have accurate data on their examination outcomes, including whether or not cargo was examined and why.
  • CBP targeting units inconsistently applied criteria for waiving examinations and incorrectly documented the reasons, due to unclear CBP policy on waiver criteria.
  • Therefore some cargo may have been examined unnecessarily while at-risk cargo may have skipped examination.

"It is disheartening that little measurable progress has been made in the almost eight years since Congress mandated CBP scan U.S.-bound cargo at foreign ports. Today, the Department of Homeland Security's primary method of protecting the nation from cargo-based terrorist threats, such as a dirty bomb, is the utilization of CBP's layered security strategy. Unfortunately, it is hard to know whether this strategy is effective since GAO reports that CBP does not have accurate data on the final disposition of shipments that it designates as 'high risk' or, for that matter, whether such shipments were ever examined. Without this information, it is hard to know whether CBP's layered approach and the risk model that underpins it, is truly effective in preventing dangerous cargo from reaching U.S. shores."

Link to Report

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978