GAO: Port container program vulnerable to WMDs

| 5/27/2008

Lax inspection of shipping containers entering U.S. ports leaves the nation vulnerable to weapons of mass destruction, according to a report issued by Congress’ investigative arm.

An estimated 8,000 shipping companies, importers and other carriers agree to submit security plans to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in order to undergo fewer security checks, but the government can’t guarantee that the companies are in compliance, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday, May 27.

According to The Associated Press, a 2005 GAO report showed that companies receiving fewer customs checks weren’t being cleared by customs through the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT program. Three years later, officials still couldn’t say whether those firms receiving reduced cargo inspection were in compliance with the government’s minimum security standards.

The GAO found numerous faults with the program cited by The AP,including the following:

  • A company is typically certified as being “safer” based on self-reported security information, but customs employees rarely check supply-chain security practices;
  • Companies can be certified for reduced customs inspections before fully implementing any security improvements, and customs has no requirement for follow-up inspections to see if improvements are made.


“Further, although CBP has developed performance measures for facilitating the flow of commerce, it has not developed performance measures to assess the effectiveness of C-TPAT’s efforts to improve supply chain security,” the GAO’s summary read.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer