Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano unveiled the Obama administration’s latest “National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security” today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
This story was updated Jan. 26 to reflect additional expert comments. For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, follow us on Twitter @AOLgov.
“We must continue to strengthen global supply chains to ensure that they operate effectively in time of crisis; recover quickly from disruptions; and facilitate international trade and travel,” said Secretary Napolitano in a statement released today by DHS.
The National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security focuses primarily on logistics assurance and outlines a set of goals designed to promote the efficient and secure movement of goods internationally. It also takes aim at fostering a resilient supply chain system, which if disrupted or compromised, would potentially result in significant economic losses.
“The global supply chain system that we seek will support innovation and prosperity by expeditiously, securely, and reliably moving goods and services within our domestic borders and around the world,” the report says.
The report, observed James Lewis, a director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “talks about working with other governments to ‘speed the flow of legitimate commerce’ rather than on cooperating to increase trust in products. This is the real problem. So it’s a good first step, but doesn’t really address the big issue,” he said.
Ensuring the integrity of products against counterfeiting, particularly products used by the U.S. military, remains a significant concern that for now, remains beyond the reach of this strategy document.
“There is a goal of improving detection of ‘contaminated’ goods, but this is really hard and almost impossible in some cases,” noted Lewis. “State, local, tribal and territorial governments have no real role in this,” he said.
The new supply chain strategy document provides guidance for the U.S. government and crucial domestic, internation stakeholders who share a common interest in the security and resiliency of the global, public and private l supply chain.
The importance of having such a supply chain strategy was underscored by Al Banghart, former director of enterprise transformation at the Defense Logistics Agency, and current Senior Advisor, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
“America’s national and economic security is inextricably tied to global trade. The supply chains which make this trade possible are an incredibly complex web of nations, non-governmental entities, businesses and individuals that has evolved over centuries largely without consideration for today’s security threats,” he said. “That this network of global commerce needs to be made secure goes without question…and must remain a concurrent priority for our nation’s leaders.”
That sentiment was echoed by former U.S. Army CIO and AT Kearney partner, Jeff Sorenson:
“One only has to look at our trade gap to realize how dependent we are on the rest of the world for food, oil, manufactured goods, etc. While globalization created opportunities for countries (to see products) around the world, it also ushered in the ability of adversary countries or organizations to disrupt the supply chain through the distribution of tainted, fraudulent or ineffective products. In some cases the results have been disastrous,” he said.
“Thus, from a national security perspective the efforts by DHS, in collaboration with other nations, to maintain the integrity and strength of our supply chain is absolutely critical,” he said.
Officials for the Department of Homeland Security said that significant progress has already been made to strengthen international supply chains through a program called Project Global Shield, which it launched in concert with the World Customs Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Interpol.
Program Global Shield is an initiative to protect the supply chain by preventing the theft or illegal diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Napolitano highlighted the program during a European Policy Center conference in Brussels earlier this month (video above). Since November 2010, 89 participating nations and international organizations have been sharing information about the export of 14 precursor chemicals used in Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
As of January 2012, Program Global Shield has accounted for seizures of chemical precursors totaling over 62 metric tons and 31 arrests related to the illicit diversion of these chemicals, according to DHS.
DHS works with leaders from global shipping companies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on developing preventative measures, including terrorism awareness training for employees and vetting personnel with access to cargo. Fulfilling a requirement of the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of high risk cargo on international flights bound for the United States is screened.
In addition, DHS oversees a Container Security Initiative in more than 50 foreign seaports in Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia, in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection helps partner countries identify and screen U.S.-bound maritime containers before they reach the U.S.
Following the release of the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, DHS and the Department of State will lead a six month engagement period with the international community and industry stakeholders to solicit feedback and specific recommendations on how to implement the Strategy in a cost effective and collaborative manner. Within 12 months of the release of the Strategy, a consolidated report on the status of implementation efforts will be developed.