Playing Politics With Homeland Security

With mid-term elections fast approaching in the United States, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has taken a novel approach in encouraging people not to vote. Their real message is to vote wisely—get to know the issues and candidates and make an informed choice. We should get the AARP to modify that message and direct it to policy makers taking contradictory positions on security.

Security is taking center stage in political campaigns, with claims and counter claims flying in every direction. Policy positions are being derived from this debate and rules and legislation are being developed or opposed, which don't meet the good voter test of making informed choices.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed state senator Alan Lowenthal's under-informed legislation that would charge cargo owners a fee for every container moving through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Lowenthal has tried repeatedly to pass a container fee, ostensibly to fund security, environmental protection and infrastructure development. Schwarzenegger cited many flaws in the bill, including the fact that the bill did not include all California ports. Are security, environment and infrastructure development less important to Oakland than to Lowenthal's constituency in Long Beach?

At about the same time in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate passed a port security bill that included a provision to allow domestic third parties and warehouses to become part of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)—an informed decision supported by the logistics community.

Recall that the early goals set during the creation of the Department of Homeland Security included domestic security, which this provision addresses. The Senate action prompted President Bush to issue a "Statement of Administrative Policy" opposing the inclusion of domestic parties in C-TPAT. "The Administration is concerned that the eligibility requirements contained in the [port security] bill would expand the CTPAT program beyond it's primary and useful intent," it states.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for administering C-TPAT, may be behind the President's opposition, but that isn't stated. CBP has said in the past that it has no jurisdiction over domestic operations and inadequate resources to examine and validate applications from domestic operators. If such a role would have to be given to another part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so be it. Let's not lose the benefit of securing the domestic supply chain.

Also in Washington, D.C., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it would eliminate known shipper status for non-U.S. facilities and companies. Much of the emphasis of current security programs has focused on vetting those very sources and eliminating any threat before it reaches U.S. shores.

It seems the original goals of homeland security—eliminate the threat, contain the threat and respond to any attack—have gotten lost in political rhetoric. The logistics community needs to be part of these discussions. Instead of maintaining a hardened supply chain, politics seem to be making it harder to maintain our supply chains.

Perry A. Trunick,
executive editor,
[email protected]


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