Panel Discusses Steps to Improving Public-Private Collaboration to Secure Air Cargo

By Carlton Purvis

Achieving balance between efficiency, privacy, and security are key in securing cargo in the United States, said a panel speaking on security at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 11th Annual Aviation Summit on Thursday.

Every entity involved has a role. “The government has a role in setting outcomes, but the government doesn’t have a role in micromanaging and telling you how to get there,” said panelist Michael Chertoff, co-founder of the Chertoff Group. Companies need to act on intelligence provided to them and be able to choose the technology they use and how reach the goals set by regulations. 

Chertoff along with former CIA Director Michael Hayden, TSA Administrator John Pistole, and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Vice President Gary Wade spoke on a panel discussion, titled “Sensible Security Solutions” and moderated by Daniel Chritstman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A key step to building strong public-private partnerships is making sure companies understand how intelligence works, said Hayden. “Sometimes intelligence is judged by how often you can prevent incidents,” but it should be judged by how well an organization's understanding of threats can be improved.

Wade emphasized the need for better trust between the government and the cargo industry, saying the government should trust that companies will be responsible with intelligence. “The VP of security at most carriers holds a secret clearance,” he said before suggesting they be given higher access.

“It’s a matter of collaboration and coordination,” Pistole said, citing the attempted bombing in 2010 where explosives were found in printer cartridges headed to addresses in the United States from Yemen.

The printer plot by Al Qaeda probably cost around $5,000 to carry out, but “the economic impact was perhaps billions,” Pistole said to an audience of attendees that included dozens of companies who transport cargo--from DHL to Southwest Airlines. And after the incident all air freight from Yemen was banned until February 2011.

Only 60 to 80 percent of foreign cargo was being scanned when the printer cartridge incident occurred. TSA anticipates that the ability to scan all U.S-bound cargo will exist by December 2012.

photo by cliff1066/flickr


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