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Homeland Security: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to Target Security Inspections of Cargo Containers

NCJ Number
Richard M. Stana
Date Published
December 2003
21 pages
Based upon the U.S. General Accounting Office's (GAO) ongoing assessment of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), this report presents preliminary findings on whether CBP's development of its targeting strategy is consistent with recognized risk-management and computer-modeling practices and also how well the targeting strategy has been implemented at selected seaports around the country.
The preliminary findings are based on extensive data collection and analysis at CBP, consultations with experts in terrorism and risk management, visits to six seaports, and related interviews with Federal and local government and private-sector officials responsible for port security and operations. The study found that CBP has acted to address the terrorism risks posed by oceangoing cargo containers by establishing a National Targeting Center, refining its automated targeting system, instituting a national training program for its personnel who conduct targeting, and promulgating regulations designed to improve the quality and timeliness of data on cargo containers. Although CBP's strategy incorporates some elements of risk management, it does not include other key elements, such as a comprehensive set of criticality, vulnerability, and risk assessments that experts have indicated are necessary to determine risk and the types of response necessary to mitigate that risk. Also, CBP's targeting system does not include a number of recognized modeling practices, such as subjecting the system to peer review, testing, and validation. By incorporating the missing elements of a risk management framework and following certain recognized modeling practices, CBP will be better prepared to counter terrorist attempts to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States. Appended description of scope and methodology