Remarks at the TIACA International Air Cargo Forum and Exhibition

Administrator John S. Pistole
Seoul, Korea
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
As Delivered

Good afternoon. Thank you all for the warm welcome. On behalf of my colleagues throughout the Transportation Security Administration, I would also like to thank Incheon Airport for the gracious hospitality as hosts of this important global air cargo forum.

We’re all here because we recognize that air cargo and its security is an area of critical importance, in terms of both its impact on the global economy and our ability, collectively, to ensure the integrity and security of the commercial aviation system at large. Globalization and increased interdependence are eliminating traditional borders and the ability to thrive in a competitive marketplace relies on freight moving efficiently and securely anywhere in the world. Using risk-based security and outcome-focused policies and partnerships, security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive goals.

This afternoon, I want to share with you some of the things we at TSA are doing to continue adapting risk-based security initiatives – which have been successful in the passenger screening arena – to our shared efforts to strengthen the security of the global supply chain, most notably as it relates to industry’s efforts to move cargo from point A to point B through the air. As most of you know, since roughly the mid-point of 2011, TSA has been employing various risk-mitigation principles to strengthen aviation security and improve passenger and baggage screening efficiency. TSA’s move toward risk-based security, or RBS, has included 25 policy changes over the last three years and many of the same principles underlying RBS for passenger screening are being applied to air cargo efforts.

Clearly, cargo security is an integral piece of the broader aviation security solution as some amount of air cargo is shipped on virtually all passenger flights, domestically as well as internationally. And as our efforts to strengthen passenger screening take hold, our adversaries are forced to look elsewhere for an opportunity to plot another attack. Because of this, our ability to secure the global cargo supply chain is an imperative, requiring we not only remain vigilant, but also that we do so in a collaborative fashion.

Recent events in Syria and the Middle East highlight the threats which continue to face each of us in the aviation industry. Violent extremists and terrorist organizations have made no secret of their desire to carry-out attacks against the United States and our allies and commercial aviation remains high on their list of potential targets. Even as the exact nature of the threat evolves, non-metallic IED remain the greatest risk to passenger aviation security. For cargo, it may or may not be non-metal IED.

Reporting in recent weeks revealed that the latest plot centered on such a device.  I’m sure at least some of you have seen the short video clip that demonstrates the destructive power of only a small amount of certain explosives – the same explosives used by the “underwear bomber” on Christmas Day 2009.

Reliable intelligence and information sharing enables us to quickly and effectively work with airlines, airports and foreign government counterparts to enact appropriate countermeasures and keep the traveling public safe. This was made clear four years ago this month and less than one year after the Christmas Day plot when improvised explosive devices were discovered in printer toner cartridges aboard cargo planes – shipments originating in Yemen and destined for Chicago.

RBS began with the idea that the vast majority of air travelers, nearly two million a day in the United States, posed little or no risk to aviation security and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to checkpoint security screening was not the most efficient use of the resources we were given to do the job.

Those changes expanded into what is now TSA Pre✓™, which continues to be our most impactful risk-based security effort to date. Each year, in addition to nearly 650 million passengers, TSA screens approximately 2 billion checked and carry-on bags. More than 45% of traveling public, including more than 21 million known crewmembers, is now receiving some form of expedited screening. Late last year we began inviting the public to visit a TSA Pre✓™ enrollment center to apply for the benefit directly, increasing eligibility even further with nearly 600,000 either signed up directly or as Global Entry members.

A natural question we then asked is whether RBS principles could be applied to cargo security. We believe the answer to that question is yes; the same principles used to identify and assign varying degrees of passenger risk could be adapted to our screening efforts with respect to the security of the global supply chain, and the secure movement of air cargo. Three of these initiatives are the National Cargo Security Program, or NCSP, the newer National Explosives Detection Canine Security Program, or K9SP, and Air Cargo Advanced Screening, or ACAS. At this time I am happy to provide a brief overview as well as an update on each of these important international efforts.

First, NCSP; as most of you know, NCSP recognition allows carriers to follow the air cargo security program, and thus the regulations and protocols, of a specific country provided they are deemed commensurate with TSA requirements. In our view, there are several benefits to earning NCSP recognition by TSA. First of all, having security processes in place to earn NCSP recognition greatly reduces the possibility of duplicating efforts and trying to remain compliant with two separate programs. Also, when a commensurate cargo security system is in place it allows for more flexible supply chain models where security screening can take place further back in the chain, which can help reduce bottlenecks, increase throughput, and improve on the overall efficiency of the network.

In addition to these clear operational advantages, NCSP recognition also strengthens relationships between the United States and its foreign partners, including our good friends here in the Republic of Korea. In fact, as of today, there are 38 countries whose security programs are recognized as being up to TSA standards through NCSP. Let me also add one last point with respect to NCSP recognition; it is an ongoing process, and one which facilitates greater collaboration and information sharing, employing best practices and risk-based solutions wherever applicable to strengthen security and improve efficiency.

In 2013, the Transportation Security Administration also launched a formal recognition program for explosives detection canines.  Through this program, TSA conducts a system-to-system review for the use of explosives detection canines in aviation security. If a canine security program is deemed to provide a commensurate level of security, canines may be used as the primary screening method for hold baggage, aircraft searches, accessible property, passengers, and cargo. In September, New Zealand became the first nation to be granted this recognition.

The last thing I want to touch upon this afternoon is the work we are doing relating to good old-fashioned intel. Advanced cargo information, or ACI, efforts are about finding the proverbial needle in a haystack among all the shipments comprising the vast air cargo supply chain. Critical data elements, which are run through risk algorithms, are used to identify the anomalous piece of cargo out of the millions of items moving at any given time. The focus of U.S. ACI efforts is on identifying and stopping a “bomb in a box” before it is loaded on a commercial aircraft. Think back to the Yemen cargo plot I mentioned earlier – a more mature ACI system may have prevented those two packages from ever leaving Yemen.

TSA works side by side with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to target high-risk air cargo shipments. As part of ACAS, we obtain manifest information on cargo destined for the United States well before being loaded on the inbound flight.  We have developed response protocols that have been implemented when high-risk cargo is identified.  Through this pilot and use of the risk identifiers developed within U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Targeting System, TSA is able to ascertain the countries that are the sources of the highest percentage and greatest number of potentially high-risk shipments.

The Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot currently includes voluntary participants from express integrated carriers, passenger air carriers, freight forwarders, and all-cargo aircraft operators.

TSA and CBP are receiving advance cargo security filing data from pilot participants in over 193 countries.  Industry participants are voluntarily providing a subset of data elements through the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trade Act of 2002 requirements.  More than 163 million shipments have been processed from pilot participants.

As we continue to fine tune the process, TSA is in a “notice and comment” period, working closely with its partners at U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help expand shipment preclearance for cargo coming into the United States and to eventually codify the Air Cargo Advanced Screening pilot into law. As we discovered with passenger security screening, we do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to supply chain security. I also want to not that Canada and the E.U. also have ACI pilot programs underway, known respectively as PACT and PRECISE. Nations must determine what solutions work best for the threats they face. It remains essential that we work together to share consistent, complete, and accurate shipment information as a way to further secure the cargo supply chain.  We believe this is an important piece of the cargo security solution. It is yet another security layer for a would-be terrorist to overcome to carry out an attack against the United States or its allies.

Information sharing between TSA and CBP is expected, and rightfully so. Information sharing among industry may not be expected, but I would suggest it should be the new model, the new paradigm for all of us to achieve the best outcomes possible. Several additional e-initiatives are being explored, including “e-CSD” for consignment security declaration. As with any new concept or initiative there are challenges and opportunities along the way – which somewhat describes running TSA each day!

Through partnerships and collaboration, I believe we can buy down risk, improve efficiencies, and achieve our collective goals – facilitating the free movement of people and goods with the best security possible. Thank you again, time permitting, I am happy to answer a few questions.