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Highlights

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for, among other things, the security of cargo containers shipped to the United States. In fiscal year 2008, 611 ports shipped a total of 9.8 million containers to the country. The 9/11 Commission Act (9/11 Act) requires 100 percent of U.S.-bound cargo containers to be scanned by 2012, and CBP has begun implementing the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI) to address this requirement. GAO was requested to assess CBP's efforts to implement the 9/11 Act requirement. This report addresses (1) CBP's progress at the initial ports participating in the SFI program, (2) CBP plans to implement SFI, (3) the extent to which CBP has estimated costs and conducted a cost-benefit analysis of 100 percent scanning, and (4) any challenges to integrating 100 percent scanning with existing container security programs. GAO reviewed operating procedures for the SFI ports and analyzed cost data. GAO also visited six of the seven original SFI ports and spoke to officials from CBP, foreign governments, and private industry.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security 1. To better position Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement the cargo container scanning provisions of the SAFE Port and 9/11 Acts, improve container security programs, and better inform Congress, the Secretary of Homeland Security, working with the CBP Commissioner, in consultation with the Secretaries of Energy and State as appropriate, should conduct a feasibility analysis of implementing the 100 percent scanning requirement of all U.S.-bound cargo containers in light of the challenges faced at the initial SFI ports.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, CBP does not plan to conduct a feasibility analysis of implementing the 100 percent scanning requirement because the Secure Freight Initiative has been reduced in scope and currently there are no funds to conduct such an analysis. As a result, CBP officials stated that they do not plan to take action to implement this recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is closed as not implemented.
Department of Homeland Security 2. To better position DHS to implement the cargo container scanning provisions of the SAFE Port and 9/11 Acts, improve container security programs, and better inform Congress, the Secretary of Homeland Security, working with the CBP Commissioner, in consultation with the Secretaries of Energy and State as appropriate, should develop more comprehensive cost estimates for achieving the requirement to scan 100 percent of U.S.-bound cargo containers, consistent with best practices for implementing, operating, and maintaining U.S. government programs.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, CBP does not plan to develop comprehensive cost estimates because the Secure Freight Initiative has been reduced in scope--it was previously operational in six ports, but it is currently operational in only one port--and currently there are no funds to develop such cost estimates. Therefore, CBP officials stated that they do not plan to take action to implement this recommendation and, as a result, the recommendation is closed as not implemented.
Department of Homeland Security 3. To better position DHS to implement the cargo container scanning provisions of the SAFE Port and 9/11 Acts, improve container security programs, and better inform Congress, the Secretary of Homeland Security, working with the CBP Commissioner, in consultation with the Secretaries of Energy and State as appropriate, should conduct a cost-benefit analysis (to include all significant economic costs) of different alternatives for achieving the 100 percent scanning requirement, to include as appropriate, other alternatives short of achieving 100 percent scanning, to enhance container security, and to address the impact that 100 percent scanning may have on other container security programs.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, CBP does not plan to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of different alternatives for achieving the 100 percent scanning requirement because the Secure Freight Initiative has been reduced in scope and currently there are no funds to conduct such an analysis. Therefore, CBP officials stated that they do not plan to take action to implement this recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is closed as not implemented.
Department of Homeland Security 4. To better position DHS to implement the cargo container scanning provisions of the SAFE Port and 9/11 Acts, improve container security programs, and better inform Congress, the Secretary of Homeland Security, working with the CBP Commissioner, in consultation with the Secretaries of Energy and State as appropriate, should provide the results of the feasibility analysis, U.S. program cost estimates, and cost-benefit analysis outlined above to Congress, along with various cost-effective alternatives to implementing the 100 percent scanning requirement, as appropriate.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, it is not feasible to implement this recommendation due to changes in the budget and political environment. Specifically, the Secure Freight Initiative has been reduced in scope, and currently there are no funds to conduct a feasibility or cost benefit analysis. Therefore, CBP officials stated that they do not plan to take action to implement this recommendation and, as a result, the recommendation is closed as not implemented.

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