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18 November 2003

U.S. Plan Urges New Measures for Air Cargo Security

Plan aims to prevent terrorist attacks, maintain trade flows, official says

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has published a plan that calls for new measures to prevent terrorists from using the cargo holds of passenger planes and all-cargo planes to launch attacks in the United States.

In a November 17 letter, Transportation Security Administrator Admiral James Loy said that the main objective of the air cargo strategic plan is to provide an effective framework that does not "unduly impede the flow of commerce."

TSA said the plan calls for prescreening all cargo shipments to identify suspicious cargo, inspecting all such cargo, establishing a data base of vetted "known" shippers, banning cargo from unknown shippers and strengthening the security of the air cargo operating areas at airports as well as the security standards for air cargo personnel.

TSA said the proposed rules along with relevant initiatives will be published in the coming months.

Following is the text of the plan's executive summary:

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Transportation Security Administration



November 2003

Focal Point Air Cargo Working Group Office of Transportation Security Policy Transportation Security Administration


I am pleased to present the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Air Cargo Strategic Plan. This plan represents the culmination of 10 months of work and reflects extensive outreach to the air cargo community and cooperation with our federal partners in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). TSA recognizes that vulnerabilities in air cargo security threaten our entire air transportation system, and if they were exploited, could prove damaging to the national economy and general well being of our nation. This Strategic Plan details a multiphased, risk-based blueprint for implementing a comprehensive air cargo security approach by applying existing capabilities and pursuing emerging technologies.

The plan is closely aligned with The National Homeland Security Strategy, National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets and TSA's Strategic Plan. The mission of the air cargo program is to provide an effective security framework that is risk-managed, addresses vulnerabilities in the pre-9/11 system, is fiscally responsible, does not unduly impede the flow of commerce, and directly supports TSA's goal of preventing terrorists and other individuals from disrupting the transportation system and harming its users. The plan contains a multimodal vision to ensure that we have adequately considered the expanse of the air cargo security domain. It identifies priority actions based on risk, cost, deadlines, performance, research and technology initiatives, and coordinated stakeholder outreach efforts.

I wish to thank those individuals from DHS, the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, TSA, and other government agencies who contributed to this plan, along with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee membership. I would also like to thank our industry partners, both those who participated in the Aviation Security Advisory Committee's Air Cargo Working Groups and those who offered their insight by other means, for providing the operational perspective necessary for us to develop a viable strategy. Our application of TSA's values of Integrity, Innovation and Teamwork combined with our evolving partnership with key stakeholders will be instrumental in strengthening air cargo security and will be a significant part of our legacy as a model for world-class organizations around the globe.

J.M. Loy, ADM
Administrator for Transportation Security


This Air Cargo Security Strategic Plan sets forth TSA's commitment, as a component of the Department of Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Security Directorate, to working closely with our federal, state, local and industry partners to ensure that 100 percent of cargo that is deemed to be of elevated risk is inspected, and ensuring that the entire air cargo supply chain is secure. In so doing, this plan addresses the security and functionality of a critical element of the nation's aviation transportation system. Like other elements of the aviation system, air cargo presents a potential risk to air travel and simultaneously underpins the economic vibrancy not just of the aviation industry, but also of the nation's high-value, just-in-time supply chain that services countless industries.

Accordingly, the air cargo security challenge is daunting, and TSA has worked with its partners in the Department of Homeland Security, including the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to develop an Air Cargo Strategic Plan that uses a threat-based, risk-managed approach to strengthen the security of air cargo. That work also involved reaching out to the air cargo community through TSA's Aviation Security Advisory Committee's Cargo Working Groups. The Air Cargo Strategic Plan addresses issues raised by those industry groups, as well as issues raised in two separate reports: one by the General Accounting Office (released in December 2002), and the second by the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General (released in September 2002). This plan provides a road map to realizing the Department's vision of an air cargo security system that will deny the terrorist the opportunity to exploit the air cargo system by using an optimal combination of information and technology-based solutions while preserving the high-value just in time air cargo supply chain.

The Strategic Plan takes advantage of a multi-layered approach to security, recognizing the benefit of grant programs and other security efforts within TSA, CBP's current targeting and screening activities, and other security enhancements undertaken by private industry and other governmental agencies, non-federal as well as federal. The Plan will be supported by a Notice of Proposed Rule Making, which TSA will publish in the coming months, and accompanying specific programs and initiatives.

Relying on the best available, currently operational technologies, the Strategic Plan takes a threat-based, risk-managed approach that will reach throughout the air cargo supply chain. In developing the Strategic Plan, TSA carefully evaluated the feasibility of physically screening 100 percent of all air cargo. Limitations of technology and infrastructure make such an undertaking impractical, from both a flow-of-commerce and resource point of view. For this reason, the Strategic Plan calls for the focused deployment of currently available tools, resources, and infrastructure in a targeted manner to provide effective security in the air cargo environment today, and lays out a path for accelerated research and development of even more effective and comprehensive tools for tomorrow.

TSA has tailored the air cargo security program to manage various security risks in a cost effective manner. It is based on the Department's goal of securing the air cargo supply chain, including cargo, conveyances and aircraft, through the implementation of a layered solution that includes:

-- Screening all cargo shipments in order to determine their level of relative risk;
-- Working with our industry and federal partners to ensure that 100 percent of items that are determined to be of elevated risk are inspected;
-- Developing and ensuring that new information and technology solutions are deployed; and,
-- Implementing operational and regulatory programs that support enhanced security measures.

TSA's agenda for achieving this goal can be divided into four strategic objectives:
-- Enhance Shipper and Supply Chain Security;
-- Identify Elevated Risk Cargo through Prescreening;
-- Identify Technology for Performing Targeted Air Cargo Inspections; and,
-- Secure All-Cargo Aircraft Through Appropriate Facility Security Measures.

Strategic Objective 1: Enhance Shipper and Supply Chain Security

TSA will enhance shipper and supply chain security through a more thorough vetting of shippers and Indirect Air Carriers (IACs) applying for the Known Shipper program and validation, respectively. This process improvement will be accomplished by centralizing data submitted by IACs and aircraft operators as part of TSA's Known Shipper and IAC validation/revalidation programs and then using information technology to verify the submitted information and compare it to terrorist intelligence. In addition, TSA will develop new training programs as part of the standard security programs employed by industry, improve compliance enforcement through a strengthened field inspection presence, and jointly explore the applicability of programs such as the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's (CBP's), Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). Through these measures TSA and its federal and industry partners will reduce terrorists' ability to utilize the air cargo system in an attack by reducing the probability that they can present themselves as legitimate players, and by promoting better security practices throughout the supply chain.

Strategic Objective 2: Identify Elevated Risk Cargo through Prescreening

TSA also recognizes that when properly used, information can be a crucial tool in increasing security without stifling legitimate trade and travel. TSA, through its Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, uses information to identify passengers traveling on aircraft who require further screening. Likewise, the U.S. Customs Service, now CBP, has successfully used an information-based targeting regime to identify high-risk cargo entering the United States for years. TSA is committed to extending this practice to the domestic air cargo arena through the development, in close coordination with CBP and our industry partners, of a Cargo Prescreening System. The system will take shipment data as well as information from the Known Shipper and IAC databases and develop a risk score for that specific shipment, in turn based on terrorist watch list information, other intelligence and advanced targeting algorithms. In recognition that the development of such an entirely new air cargo security program will take time, TSA will require that aircraft operators begin to randomly inspect cargo to be transported on passenger aircraft in order to add another layer of defense.

Strategic Objective 3: Identify Technology for Performing Targeted Air Cargo Inspections

TSA is also committed to the use of existing and emerging technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inspecting air cargo. TSA is already planning a number of pilot projects to study the applicability of current and emerging non-intrusive inspection technologies for application in the air cargo industry, and will continue to invest resources into research and development in the future.

Strategic Objective 4: Secure All-Cargo Aircraft through Appropriate Facility Security Measures

TSA will update the security regulations for aircraft operators in order to strengthen the security of the air cargo operating area. Airport operators and operators of all-cargo aircraft with a maximum gross take-off weight of more than 12,500 pounds will be required to: make greater use of criminal history records checks; employ additional measures for identifying and screening people with access to the aircraft; randomly screen cargo for stowaways; secure unattended aircraft and the air operations area through, among other measures, better access controls; and, develop and implement a communication and incident response program.

In implementing the air cargo security program detailed in this strategic plan, TSA will not duplicate the resource allocations or structures put in place for the securing of passengers and baggage in the aviation environment after 9/11. TSA will instead implement these strategic objectives through a combination of public-private partnerships and regulatory action.

Since its creation after September 11, 2001, TSA has moved steadily to strengthen air cargo security. This Strategic Plan represents a major new commitment by TSA to build aggressively on that foundation and substantially improve the security environment for the nation's aviation system.

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