Remarks at the Air Cargo 2012 Spring Conference

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Administrator John S. Pistole
Miami, Florida
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to join you here today, and thank you for the opportunity to discuss the current state of air cargo security, how we got to where we are today, and the challenges we all face in managing vital economic activity and providing the most effective security in the most efficient way possible.

I also want to recognize the fine work of the men and women who compose the Air and Expedited Motor Carriers Association (AEMCA), the Air Forwarders Association (AFA), and the Express Delivery & Logistics Association (XLA), which co-host this conference as a service to the air cargo industry.

We at TSA value the strong relationships we have built with your organizations, and not only here in the United States, but around the world. Together, we have made significant strides in enhancing air cargo security and I am hopeful our efforts maintain the vitality and integrity of the global supply chain will grow stronger throughout 2012.

I say this because I think we can all agree there is still work to be done. Our adversaries have made it clear they will stop at nothing to exploit our aviation systems.

It has been my privilege to lead a dedicated workforce at the Transportation Security Agency for more than a year and a half now, and every day I am reminded that TSA was built to perform a vital, two-pronged national security function; to secure the freedom of movement for people and commerce.

With respect to efforts aimed at securing the movement of commerce, we took another significant step forward last month when we submitted to air carriers our strategy for screening 100% of international inbound cargo transported on passenger aircraft by the end of 2012.

We began this journey more than 10 years ago when the United States Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, or ATSA. That legislation helped frame, from a security standpoint, our nation’s response to the attacks of September 11th, and that mission was further defined with the 2007 passage of the 9/11 Act, which set the standards and requirements for air cargo screening which have been a focus of your industry throughout the last five years.

I am sure many of you remember that when the 9/11 Act was signed into law, things were very different. For example, there was no universally recognized, or “approved,” cargo screening technology in place and the industry was a long way from getting to 100% security screening for cargo moving on passenger aircraft.

Through effective industry collaboration – including airlines, shippers, freight forwarders and ground handlers – we have been able to make great progress in approaching the statutory requirements of the 9/11 Act with respect to air cargo security screening.

Given the physical constraints of many airports around the country, it has been your ability, industry-wide, to work together at various points in the global supply chain to alleviate the potential problem of carrying out all screening operations at airport facilities. Your participation throughout this process is the reason that the Certified Cargo Screening Program is such a solid success.

By effectively using more than 1,200 facilities located somewhere other than an airport, and screening more than 55% of air cargo prior to its arrival at the airport, we were able to attain 100% screening of cargo on domestic and outbound international passenger aircraft by August 1, 2010. That is a significant, positive achievement that was made possible by the dedication of everyone in this room to a common goal.

Central to reaching that goal, and those that still remain, is a system built on trust; not only between government and regulated parties, but among partners within the industry as well.

Because inspections are necessary for any security screening system, there is an incentive for all parties to perform with a high level of diligence and operational integrity. Along the way, this process has weeded out a few bad actors, and the Justice Department has levied fines and penalties – some of which have been substantial, and possibly criminal – against those individuals or entities attempting to operate outside the law.

Collaboration is also helpful with respect to technology, and we continue working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to qualify pieces of equipment – either new, or enhanced – for industry to use when screening air cargo. This effort also includes new types of technology, such as electro-magnetic detection, which provides industry a cost-effective solution for screening perishable cargo. Starting from “zero” in 2007, TSA has now fully qualified over 85 different equipment models for industry use.

The 9/11 Act also requires we achieve 100% security screening for all cargo coming into the United States on passenger aircraft, and as many of you are fully aware, this international inbound component of air cargo security poses a different set of challenges.

While many of the operational issues associated with inbound cargo are the same as outbound, the regulatory challenges of working with foreign governments, international shippers and freight forwarders vary from country to country. Because of this, the opportunity to replicate the CCSP for international inbound cargo is not there.

One of the key elements of our strategy for inbound cargo is the National Cargo Security Program (NCSP) process because it enables industry to follow a single program, and provides TSA with compliance visibility. The ability to have visibility to compliance is as important overseas as it is here in the U.S.

I’m sure some of you recall that this initiative began several years ago, but response within the industry was a little slow, and there didn’t seem to be a pressing need to take things to the next level – until the Yemen cargo plot.

Quite frankly, that incident was a wake-up call, and since then TSA has worked even more closely with its partners in government, both foreign and domestic, and with all segments of the air cargo industry to identify the best approach to protect airlines, employees, passengers and assets everywhere.

In fact, I recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee regarding the Administration’s FY13 budget request, which includes funding to fully annualize more than 50 international cargo inspectors added in FY 2012 to enhance air cargo inspection and other security oversight and improvements to meet the statutory requirement of 100-percent system-wide screening of cargo on passenger aircraft, including aircraft originating overseas.

These resources, as many of you know, will help us validate other countries’ cargo screening inspections and programs, ensuring that their requirements for shipping cargo by air from and within the United States are commensurate to our own in terms of security.

As an integral part of TSA’s effort to address the evolving threat to our civil aviation, I have been directing the agency to develop and deploy more risk-based, intelligence-driven security measures – all of which contribute to our ability to provide the traveling public with the most effective aviation security in the most efficient way possible.

I believe the fundamental concepts and building blocks of our risk-based approach to aviation security apply just as well to air cargo security as they do to passenger screening.

The steps we’re taking at TSA begin with three fundamental principles:
Ensure that all measures strengthen security.
Focus on those travelers or shipments who may present the greatest risk.
Risks can be mitigated, but never fully eliminated.

Throughout 2011, as part of its risk-based security initiative, TSA began testing several new screening concepts, including a program designed to verify the identity of airline pilots, adjustments in screening procedures for children, and the use of expanded behavior detection techniques.

On the cargo side of the equation, high-level working groups were convened with industry and association representatives collaborating with government officials to pursue methods and processes that would strengthen our ability to identify high-risk cargo – and do so as early as possible.

Through a series of Security Directives, we’ve been successful in implementing these criteria and as a result 100% of such cargo is screened prior to being loaded onto an aircraft destined for the United States. This is a process we aim to continue strengthening over time as we look for smarter ways to use existing information to stay ahead of existing, evolving and emerging threats.

Many of you have heard of TSA Pre✓™ by now – some of you may have even experienced the benefits of expedited screening now available at nine of our busiest airports.

Through this initiative, and working closely with CBP and its Global Entry program, TSA is focusing greater resources on passenger pre-screening to expedite the process for known, trusted travelers whenever possible.

More than half a million passengers have been screened through TSA Pre✓™ since it began, and the feedback we’ve received from participants has been positive. As a result we are expanding the pilot and expect to offer TSA Pre✓™ benefits to domestic travelers at 35 airports by the end of 2012.

In the same way that TSA Pre✓™ is in many ways a trusted traveler program for passenger security screening, TSA and CPB took a similar approach following the Yemen incident by launching the Air Cargo Advance Screening, or ACAS pilot to try to use what we already know in a different way, and to do so earlier in the process.

We chose to begin this effort in the express segment of the air cargo market because of the high volume of shipments involved and the availability of shipper and shipment information already in the system.

Like TSA Pre✓™, the results from the ACAS pilot have been positive. To date, more than 14 million shipments have been processed without a single “Do Not Load,” and a very small number of shipments meeting the threshold requiring enhanced screening.

As a result, we are expanding ACAS to include passenger carriers, all-cargo carriers and even freight forwarders. Eventually, our goal is to use this methodology across the board as we seek to quickly and effectively perform solid risk-based analysis of not only all shippers, but also of every shipment entering the United States by air – regardless of the carrier. TSA & CBP are working actively with other governments and the World Customs Organization (WCO) toward a common platform and analysis.

TSA and CBP have also been working closely with industry to finalize the ACAS Strategic Plan, which outlines the path forward. Mr. Winkowski will provide more information on that plan in just a few moments.

As this process evolves, we envision gaining a greater ability to make shipment-level security decisions earlier, before consolidation, which in turn can result in greater efficiencies within the industry as both shippers and freight forwarders have more options and greater flexibility to make sound business decisions without ever compromising security; without ever risking a catastrophic loss. ACAS data will also better enable us to incorporate information into our risk methodologies for securing the global supply chain.

As I mentioned earlier, innovations in state-of-the-art technology help all of us stay ahead of emerging threats, and events such as this conference provide an important forum for seeing the many of the industry’s latest developments in one place and sharing good ideas and best practices that can help mitigate risk and strengthen security in the most efficient possible way.

Together, all of us gathered here today have the ability to set the stage for improving global air cargo security for years to come. I believe we share an overarching desire to not only reach those goals which are required of us by law, but to exceed them wherever and whenever possible; to turn our collective pledges of action into a series of measurable achievements.

I believe this conference will see a continued, clear desire to set a course for aviation security that balances short term advances with long term initiatives to secure global aviation system from known, new, and future threats.

To reach our goal of efficiently screening 100% of inbound international air cargo, it is essential that each link of the global supply chain is working cooperatively to develop a plan of action with discrete steps, to identify security screening priorities, sharing information in a timely fashion and initiating programs to mitigate the greatest risks collectively identified by the industry.

TSA supports active partnerships and collaboration at every level. We also recognize that there is a range of resources and capabilities and that those entities with greater abilities have an opportunity to provide training, equipment, and technical assistance to move the entire industry forward .

To that end, it is imperative that we all review current programs with an honest and critical eye and identify areas where technical assistance and training may be required. We must also identify those areas where we can assist each other in raising the bar and strengthening air cargo security for everyone.

As it is important for all of you to continue building partnerships that work well within the air cargo industry, TSA works in close collaboration with foreign government counterparts throughout the world, providing resources to help strengthen security methods and processes and, as a result, elevate security standard for everyone, wherever and whenever they choose to do business.

For example, TSA works closely with the State Department and other federal agencies to engage with international security partners on global supply chain security practices and will continue to do so as in our efforts to achieve the requirements of the 9/11 Act. We also continue to work closely with other bodies such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to work toward not only a greater awareness of security in the supply chain but also toward development of common standards globally.

TSA has made significant progress on the security of international inbound air cargo, including entering into a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with foreign transportation security partners.

Those agreements include the Quadrilateral Agreement between Australia, Canada, EU and the US, which was signed in early 2008 with the goal of ensuring equivalent overall levels of air cargo security between partners. Another is the EU Agreement for the purpose of discussing methods for developing commensurate regulatory and inspection principles for air cargo between the United States and the European Union, also signed in 2008. This is important because nearly fifty percent of inbound air cargo originates from European airports.

And in October 2010, the U.S. joined 190 countries to officially adopt the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Declaration on Aviation Security, which forges a historic new foundation for aviation security that will better protect the entire global aviation system, including air cargo activity, from evolving terrorist threats.

Going forward, we will conduct more capacity development training courses wherever our efforts can have the greatest benefit to the overall system, and we will continue working to harmonize security standards with other governments, particularly as I mentioned earlier, those standards relating to cargo security through the National Cargo Security Program recognition process.

While there is still much work to be done in our efforts to strengthen air cargo and screen every shipment coming into the United States, our collaborative efforts to date have resulted in great progress and sets the stage for additional improvements down the road. Thank you once again for the opportunity to share some thoughts with all of you today, and at this time I will open up the discussion to whatever questions you might have.