The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 requires that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) establish procedures to ensure screening of 100 percent of the cargo shipped on passenger aircraft by August 2010.
Detractors continue to claim that the goal of 100-percent screening is virtually impossible to reach and that it will cause significant shipping delays. In September, a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation wrote that repealing the 100-percent screening mandate is one of the crucial steps to strengthening the war on terror, calling it one of several “unworkable mandates … that monopolize DHS time and resources for little to no security gain.”
Douglas Callen, former CSO of the TSA and now the principal consultant at Douglas I. Callen & Associates, disagrees with this assessment: “I think cargo is one of the last remaining huge holes in aviation security,” he says. “When we’re taking so much time to screen passengers getting on board the aircraft and their carry-on baggage and luggage, and we’re not screening the cargo going on — it just makes no sense whatsoever. The vulnerability is certainly there. From a security perspective, screening all cargo is a very important thing to do.”
According to the TSA, 50 percent of air cargo on passenger-carrying aircraft is now being screened. All cargo transported on narrow-body (single-aisle) aircraft has been subject to screening since October 2008. But while narrow-body aircraft carry the majority of the passengers flying daily from U.S. airports, wide-body aircraft carry around 75 percent of U.S. cargo, and these are the aircraft still going unscreened.
Cargo transported on these aircraft is consolidated into large shipments of up to 200 pieces, packed together on pallets and shrink-wrapped. It would be impractical and time-consuming to disassemble all these shipments to screen all items at the piece level, then reassemble the pallets for shipping. As of this writing, no TSA-certified technology can accomplish such screening without requiring the breakdown of consolidated shipments. In addition, few airports have the resources or the facilities to do such wide-scale screening on-site.
The TSA has created a program called the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) to ease the burden of on-site screening. The CCSP is a voluntary program that allows facilities to become TSA certified to screen their own air cargo before they deliver it to the carrier. Manufacturers, distributors, third-party logistics providers, and other organizations that transport cargo by air carrier may apply to become Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSFs). CCSFs must meet TSA’s rules for security and chain of custody, and they must undergo a facility assessment and periodic inspections to maintain their certified status.
Paul Leodler, Director of Security, Western U.S. & Mexico for Cardinal Health, sees the CCSP as the most sensible way for his company to work toward the 100-percent screening mandate. “We’re shipping pharmaceutical product, and we’re responsible for the supply chain until it arrives at the next licensed facility, so until the pharmacy or hospital receives it and signs for it, it belongs to us no matter whose possession it is in,” Leodler says. “We’re responsible for these products by law. So the idea of having a third party opening our products and screening controlled drugs is a real issue for us. Of course there’s a risk of loss there, and a lot of our products are refrigerated and cannot be opened. So it’s not an option for us to allow any other party to screen our shipments. We have to be CCSP certified so we can verify that the products are free of contraband and will not be opened in transit.”