Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was only recognizing reality when she informed Congress recently that it would be impossible to conform to the requirement that 100 percent of containers bound for the United States must first be screened at foreign ports for radioactive materials. The requirement was supposed to become effective July 1 of this year, but the DHS has exercised its authority under the law to delay implementation for at least another two years.
As a story in this morning’s Washington Post makes clear, the cost of the rule passed by Congress in 2007 would be prohibitive at an estimated $16 billion. According to the story, “Pilot programs established to scan all containers were abandoned in 2009 after the agency said costs were too high and the effort led to cargo delays and logistical problems.”
DHS argues that U.S. ports can be protected with more targeted inspection of higher-risk containers, rather than blanket inspection no matter how secure the source of the container and port of departure. Congress and the administration need to work out a compromise that will protect U.S. security without unnecessarily burdening U.S. international commerce.