Remarks at the USTDA Latin America and Caribbean Aviation Summit

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Administrator John S. Pistole
Miami, FL
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. Thank you, Lee (Zak, USTDA Director), for that kind introduction, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts with all of you this morning. As you might guess, the subject of aviation security holds some significance for me, and I appreciate being able to discuss it in the context of trade and commerce, especially with partners as important to the United States of America as those represented here today.

We participate in a global economy, one that is becoming more and more interdependent on a borderless supply chain that includes everything from raw materials to finished products. From consumers and producers, to warehouse operators, transportation providers, and public servants – the business of business stretches all around the world, connecting and intersecting virtually every continent, every day.

At TSA, we begin each day with an intelligence briefing, where sensitive information, often classified information, collected by the global intelligence community is shared and reviewed. It reminds us that the threat of terrorism remains very much an operational consideration, and the consequences of being unprepared to prevent another attack would be devastating.

We should never forget that citizens from 115 countries were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. This sort of indiscriminate destruction and the resulting economic instability could have dire and long-lasting consequences for all of us. That is why multi-national summits such as this are important, because as long as there is the free movement of people and goods between our countries, there will always be the risk of another attack. Because of this, strengthening global aviation security by implementing policies and procedures that mitigate, or manage, risk is one of TSA’s highest priorities.

Today I will briefly discuss the current operational status of various risk-based security efforts, not only with respect to passenger travel, but also TSA’s National Cargo Screening Program, or NCSP, and the Air Cargo Advanced Screening, or ACAS pilot program. You will note that many of the ideas and initiatives we are developing with our international partners are based on the principle of commensurate security procedures, which I will also talk about in a little more detail.

One of our goals in working with the international transportation community is to continue strengthening the partnerships we have with organizations such as the Latin American Civil Aviation Council; to continue developing and sharing best practices so that all of us can benefit from the good work each of us is doing. 
The Latin America and Caribbean region is vitally important to aviation security worldwide and for the United States, as more than 100 airports offer last-point-of-departure service from the region into the United States.

So, to get things started, let me spend a few minutes sharing with you some of the progress we have been making in modifying and enhancing some of our critical aviation security procedures. These changes are occurring primarily in the airport security screening operations, and they demonstrate our commitment to adopting some of the same risk-based security principles that have been successful in other transportation sectors. As we gain greater understanding of how best to apply a risk-based approach across all transportation sectors, we will reevaluate our current approach wherever it is beneficial to do so, and then work with partners such as all of you to implement any changes deemed appropriate.

Examples of TSA’s risk-based security, or RBS, initiatives implemented during the past year and a half include modified security screening for passengers in two distinct age groups; those 12 and younger as well as those 75 and older. As a result of the added efficiency these changes have brought to the security screening process, by reducing the size of the haystack, we believe everyone else requiring security screening also benefits.

One of the most visible components of the RBS initiative is TSA Pre✓™. This innovative and efficient passenger prescreening effort is operational in 32 of our busiest airports, with plans to continue expanding as both airports and airlines become ready. Feedback from passengers who have opted into TSA Pre✓™ and experienced the associated expedited security screening has been positive, and we hope participation continues to grow as more and more people become aware of the opportunity.

Last month, the number of passengers screened through TSA Pre✓™ surpassed the four million mark, and we expect this number to continue growing at a rate of 1 million or more passengers each month as new airports are added, and as more passengers opt-in to the program.

Without going into too much detail, there are a couple of ways travelers can be included in TSA Pre✓™. Participating airlines will continue reaching out to their frequent flyers, and I encourage anyone contacted by the airlines to give this initiative a try.

Others can apply for membership with the existing U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry, which qualifies them for inclusion in the TSA Pre✓™ initiative. Anyone interested in signing up through Global Entry can visit the Customs and Border Protection agency’s website for more detailed information about both Global Entry and TSA Pre✓™. If you are not already enrolled in Global Entry, I strongly encourage each of you to consider applying to that program.

The TSA Pre✓™ initiative is enabling us to focus our resources on those passengers who could pose a higher risk, while providing expedited screening to those we consider low-risk, trusted travelers. One of the key objectives we have for RBS in 2013 and beyond is to expand many of these efforts beyond our own borders – though the details of how and when and where we can do these things are still being discussed.

In addition, we believe active-duty members of the United States military comprise another passenger population that should receive expedited security screening at the airport and we are moving in this direction. We have identified four airports that a large number of active duty military members currently use for travel and have modified our security screening protocols accordingly.

Those airports include both Reagan National and Dulles in the Washington DC area, as well as Charlotte-Douglas and Seattle-Tacoma International Airports where more than 100,000 members of our Armed Forces have been screened using these new protocols.

TSA is also partnering more closely than ever with the airline industry, supporting an effective known crew member initiative that offers expedited security screening for airline pilots and flight attendants. With each departing flight, these men and women are trusted with the lives of everyone onboard. We believe it makes sense to screen them accordingly.

Risk based security initiatives underscore our belief, as I mentioned in the beginning of my remarks, that risk can be managed but not eliminated. Security experts around the world agree that the only way to eliminate all risk associated with transportation is to stop traveling, and we all know that’s not about to happen. In fact, we are confident the opposite is true, and passenger volume will only increase over time. Focusing security resources where they can do the most good is the most efficient way to provide effective security for everyone.

Now, I think most of us will agree that commerce is the essential driver of the global economy. It is also reasonable to believe that growth and prosperity, whether on a local, national or international scale are incumbent on the ability to conduct business securely. When there is uncertainty, especially with regard to something as fundamental as security, the global supply chain is slowed, which is often counterproductive to the trade environment needed to promote the economic expansion we all would like to see.

At TSA we are taking an approach that seeks to strengthen the global supply chain through process improvement, as opposed to increasing the regulatory burden already on our foreign government and foreign industry partners. We believe this, in turn, helps eliminate uncertainty and as a result has the potential to support and stimulate economic growth.

One of the key elements of our strategy for securing the inbound movement of cargo to the United States 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 in October 2010, a little more than two years ago.

Quite frankly, that incident was a stark reminder for all of us, 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.

Attempted air cargo attacks such as this illustrate the reality of the threat, and are a clear indication that disrupting the flow of commerce by any means necessary is a goal of terror organizations. And because just about all air traffic includes some level of cargo, this threat impacts passenger carriers as well as all-cargo carriers.

Through the NCSP TSA “recognizes” a country’s NCSP and allows carriers to follow that NCSP when sending cargo to the United States if we deem it to be commensurate with TSA requirements via a system-to-system comparison, reducing the need for industry to apply duplicative requirements under two security programs, that of both the origin and destination, for cargo moving inbound to the United States.

It also allows for the development of flexible supply chain models and the acknowledgment of other, effective supply chain screening.

In the same way that TSA Pre✓™ is 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 about shippers 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 40 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.

As this effort 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. Because ACAS data will also better enable us to incorporate information into our risk methodologies for securing the global supply chain, we encourage those in the air cargo industry to continue joining this effort.

TSA published security programs in May 2012, requiring industry to be screening 100% of cargo destined for the United States as of December 3rd – this past Monday, in fact. Screening percentages reported by industry have been increasing steadily, and we have received no indications form carriers that they would be unable to meet that requirement.

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 aviation 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.

As TSA Western Hemisphere Regional Director Jess Presas mentioned yesterday, we will continue seeking multilateral and bilateral agreements to strengthen aviation security in this region and the world, including technical assistance and information sharing agreements

As far as what’s ahead for TSA, I expect we will continue to see a combination of both technological advancement and process improvement as contributing factors in our success as a 21st century counterterrorism organization. Our adversaries have made it clear they have the desire to attack us again, and they have also shown an ability to adapt their methods in an attempt to overcome the layers of security we’ve put in place over the last ten-plus years.

A key element of our RBS initiatives is shifting the focus of security efforts from primarily a search for objects to identifying individuals who pose an elevated risk to commercial aviation. We know that very few of the passengers who fly each day pose a higher level of risk, and the challenge is how we can separate out those we can identify as posing a lower risk and allowing them to proceed through an expedited physical screening process.

From an international perspective, the work we are doing to harmonize both passenger and cargo security with our partners around the world will continue, and I believe information sharing and developing a common set of transportation security best practices will continue to be a priority for working to ensure the security of the global supply chain.

Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this important discussion. Summit meetings such as this are a great way to facilitate information sharing and to learn about global best practices in aviation security. We at TSA look forward to working closely with partners in the Latin American and Caribbean region because we believe such collaboration will often yield mutually beneficial results.

At this time, I believe we still have a few moments, if you have any questions, or anything you would like to discuss a little further.

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