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Supply Chain Resources

​SUPPLY CHAIN SECURITY HAS been a focal point for both the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since its formation in 2002, DHS has tried to identify the security weaknesses and threats of the goods that travel across U.S. borders.

The government has designed programs to ensure the safe and accountable movement of goods by land, sea, and air. A few of the programs are designed to guard against the introduction of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) into the supply chain, while others work within specific industry sectors. The following is a look at a few of the more far-reaching current federal initiatives and programs that are used to secure the supply chain, both domestically and internationally.

The Obama administration’s National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, released in 2012 and updated in January 2013, sets out a series of broad actions and goals that the U.S. government hopes to follow in protecting supply chains. The strategy aims to resolve supply chain threats early, adapt to meet continually evolving threats, and promote trade resumption practices following disruptions.

In the update to the strategy, officials said that the focus was to advance public-private partnerships. Toward that aim, the update included developing a United States Government Supply Chain Partnership Program Framework, establishing centralized processing for global supply chain-related partnership programs, and soliciting input from stakeholders on additional opportunities for public-private partnerships.

Since the update was issued, various working groups have been formed and are meeting periodically, including the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, and the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council.

The government side of these partner ships involves several U.S. agencies. DHS is included for its knowledge of existing supply chain security protocols and technologies; the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expertise on critical infrastructure vulnerabilities; and the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration for their expertise in responding to bioterrorism events and foodborne threats. Also involved, to add a foreign perspective, is the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation for expertise regarding global security programs and communication standardization.


In terms of specific federal programs, the most far-reaching is Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), which was signed into law in November 2001. C-TPAT is aimed at ensuring that WMDs are not introduced into the supply chain, transported across borders or regions, and later used by terrorists.

C-TPAT enlists private industry to voluntarily implement security protocols, including warehouse security, proper vetting of personnel, document control, and data protection. When a company implements these measures, C-TPAT inspectors examine the program to verify compliance; if compliance is achieved, the provider is certified within the program. This certification becomes part of the firm’s customs clearance portfolio. The certifications are revisited roughly every three years.

While it is not guaranteed, or even made explicit, a C-TPAT certification may allow the company to have its goods or transport cleared through customs in an expedited manner. This can be key for any firm that relies on its supply chain to move cargo expeditiously.

C-TPAT is a voluntary program, open to ocean, air, rail, and truck carriers; importers, foreign manufacturers, brokers, consolidators, ocean transportation intermediaries, port authorities, and terminal operators. Initially there were only a few participants, but earlier this year, C-TPAT reported that there are now more than 10,700 certified partners in the program. That includes more than 4,300 importers and more than 3,100 ocean, air, rail, and truck carriers.

Besides the certification of domestic partners, C-TPAT also has several Mutual Recognition Arrangements with foreign governments. The goal of these arrangements is to link and align international industry partnership programs.


The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) addresses the security of shipping cargo on passenger flights. The CCSP was developed under the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, which required that, by August 2010, all cargo placed on passenger flights be screened for explosives. The screening of cargo is accomplished by explosives trace detection equipment, x-ray machines, or physical inspection. The screening can be performed by the owners of the cargo such as manufacturers, by those who transport the cargo such as consolidators, or by the airlines themselves. Currently, all three types of screeners are involved in the process.

CCSP requires inspection, sealing, and tracking from the point of inspection or screening to the actual loading onto the aircraft. All those who handle screened cargo are required to follow security measures as dictated by CCSP protocols. These protocols include maintaining a secure location for the receiving, screening, and storing of cargo; sealing the cargo once it is inspected; examining documents; clearing personnel; and verifying the chain of custody.

In December 2012, TSA broadened the CCSP program to include inbound international air shipments. The new rule requires that all air cargo shipments bound for the United States be screened. It also builds additional riskbased, intelligence-driven procedures into the prescreening process to determine screening protocols on a per-shipment basis.

The Container Security Initiative deals more specifically with the security of containers that hold cargo on board ships. Freighters are required to report information on cargo prior to landing; ships holding suspect material or containers could be held off -shore until the potential threat or suspicion is alleviated.

In the end, an organization’s operation or goods may be unique, and its function or position in the supply chain might be distinctive. But developing the corresponding security program need not be a singular activity. As the White House makes clear in its national strategy, protecting the global supply chain is a shared responsibility.

Arthur G. Arway, CPP, is a senior partner at Gold Sheild Associates, LLP, and the author of Supply Chain Security: A Comprehensive Approach. He is a member of ASIS.