Promotion of Cargo Security Receives Limited Support

CED-80-81: Published: Mar 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1980.

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A review was undertaken of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Transportation Security's (OTS) efforts to promote cargo security. OTS was established to help combat the widespread problem of cargo theft. Working through a voluntary program, OTS coordinates and promotes cargo security activities in 15 metropolitan area city campaigns and encourages industry to use various cargo security measures. OTS also provides data on the extent of the cargo theft problem. Conservative estimates of the direct cost of cargo theft in 1979 alone was $1 billion.

GAO found that the effectiveness of the program at OTS has been hindered by a small budget, inadequate staff resources committed to the city campaigns, and industry's minimal interest. With these constraints, OTS can realistically do little to promote cargo security. GAO also found that OTS data has understated the extent of the problem and may not be reliable and useful in the future. Furthermore, DOT is currently considering various alternatives for modifying the voluntary cargo security program. These modifications include the possibility of reducing the staff and budget and city campaigns of OTS in cities with the most severe cargo theft problems, or the possibility of shifting the city campaign leadership from the modal administrations to OTS. Additionally, unless OTS can obtain reliable data on cargo thefts in the future, DOT may discontinue the collection, processing, and publishing of this information.

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