By Fernando Soler
, SOS Global Express
Last month, I testified in the U.S. Congress before the House Homeland Security Committee on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implementation of a 100% screening mandate, which will become effective in just a few weeks. The Hearing, chaired by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), focused the hearing on a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which warned that TSA will face significant difficulties implementing a 100% screening mandate without impeding the flow of commerce.
As many of you know, following the tragic incidents of September 11, 2001 the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 included a provision that required the TSA to establish a system to screen 100% of air cargo transported on passenger aircrafts originating within the United States. The Act stipulated that full implementation would occur by August 1, 2010, less than a month from now. Instead of conducting air cargo screening themselves, TSA decided to institute a different, two-prong approach: they would rely on air carriers to conduct screening and launch the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which allows screening to occur at various points along the air cargo chain.
Although the TSA’s plans may sound well-intentioned, participation in CCSP will require freight forwarding companies to purchase screening equipment, as well as provide storage and manpower to facilitate screening. For many smaller and mid-size freight forwarding companies like my own, this requirement is simply too expensive and too overwhelming. Screening equipment alone will cost upwards of $150,000 to $500,000 per screening facility. Understanding the huge expense this could have, TSA did initiate a pilot program in which it purchased screening equipment for a handful of indirect air carriers in 18 major cities. However, only a limited amount of carriers benefited from this program leaving thousands of smaller companies without a solution.
As a founding member of the Air Cargo Security Alliance and the proud owner of SOS Global, I urged the Committee to consider the substantial hurdles and potential economic impacts this screening mandate will have if TSA does not develop alternative screening methods.
Forcing all of the costs and hurdles of screening onto airlines, freight forwarders and shippers will not only cost a substantial sum ’ upwards of $600 million annually ’ but it will also strand several tons of air cargo daily. As echoed many times during the hearing, the inability of airlines and CCSP participants to screen all air cargo will idle tons of goods, significantly impeding the flow of commerce.
The significant costs of forcing forwarders and shippers to screen air cargo will cause substantial burdens on SOS Global, other small and mid-size companies in the air cargo industry and, more importantly, the thousands of employees of these small businesses and the families who depend on those jobs.
Although I am deeply concerned by the impacts of TSA’s implementation of the 100% screening mandate, I clearly recognize that our national security depends on the safe, secure transit of goods. Fortunately, there is a solution.
Federal air cargo screening centers, located at all American airports, could achieve both the TSA’s objectives of 100% screening and allow an evening playing field for all carriers. The ideal solution, which I proffered to the Committee, would establish screening centers funded by a per-pound screening fee and would operate in conjunction with the CCSP. If TSA implemented this solution, thousands of jobs would be protected, all carriers including non-CCSP members could continue to ship cargo on any airplane, and the cost would not raise taxes nor add to the federal deficit. In effect, federal screening centers would achieve two primary objectives: homeland security and economic growth.
With the 100% screening mandate rapidly approaching, I ask the Obama Administration and the Congress