Subscribe to the DPJ Weekly Brief newsletter: Subscribe
SingaporeAmerican Chamber of Commerce in SingaporeMarch 29, 2006
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Thank you all for attending. I want to welcome the ambassadors who are attending. I don’t know what you call a group of ambassadors – a gaggle of ambassadors? Anyway, it’s wonderful to have you here and I look forward to being able to meet with you tomorrow. I’m also delighted to be able to meet with members of the Chamber and to talk about what we’re doing at the Department of Homeland Security.
It’s a little bit ironic to be the Secretary of a department that is called “Homeland Security” and to find that I am spending a good deal of my time dealing with international and foreign matters. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that our department has tremendous breadth. We deal with immigration. We deal with customs. We deal with transportation security, whether it be air, land, or sea. We have the Coast Guard. We have Secret Service. We have to deal with protecting infrastructure around the country. And we also have to deal with response and recovery when there’s a disaster. So all of these functions often bring us into contact with other countries because they require us to police and examine the interface between what we do in the United States and what is either coming in or going out, or might have some impact in the United States.
And so as a consequence of that, I find that I have to be very mindful of the need to work in partnership. Much of what we do cannot be done alone. It has to be done with the cooperation of countries all over the world, and also has to be done with the cooperation of state and local government and the private sector. This is because most of the assets and most of the employees that we have to bring to bear on issues of homeland security -- whether it’s preventing terrorism, protecting against terrorism if it happens, or responding to an attack -- most of the assets and employees are not owned or employed by the government. They are owned or employed by private parties and businesses all over the country.
So we are, maybe more than most departments, a department that works in a networked fashion as opposed to a top-down command and control fashion. In that sense, it’s a real 21st century department. It’s a very young department and not a fully mature department, but I think that when it comes to fruition it will really reflect the best of what the 21st century has to offer in terms of how we manage issues.
It’s particularly fitting that I come to Singapore. I think this is the second time a Secretary of Homeland Security has come here. I think my predecessor was here. It’s my first trip to Asia in this job. Asia is a very significant trading and travel partner of the United States. What we do in the United States with respect to homeland security will have a major impact on travel and trade for people here in Asia. So therefore we need to be very closely aligned with our partners in this part of the world in making sure that the steps we take are appropriately balanced to promote security, but not at the expense of those attributes of our world that make life worth living: our freedom, our prosperity, our ability to travel and satisfy our curiosity. My hope in traveling in Asia -- I started out in Japan and after Singapore I’ll be in China – is to make sure that we continue to promote a common vision of a secure travel and trade environment. An environment which does elevate security for everybody, because security is indispensable to travel and trade, but does so without breaking the fluidity and the ease with which we currently use our systems of going around the world in order to make sure people can travel and also sell and buy the things which they want to sell and buy.
Let me begin by talking about something which is particularly relevant in Singapore: the ports. Now if you follow the newspapers or CNN or BBC, you know that in the last month or so we had a lot of attention all of a sudden focused on the issue of ports in connection with a particular transaction that ultimately has gone through in a modified form. But the fact of the matter is we’ve been talking about the issue of port security for at least as long as I’ve been in this department, and actually from the time the department was first formed.
A huge amount of the world’s supply of all kinds of goods moves over the oceans, and that means keeping that supply moving -- and making sure that the supply chain doesn’t become a vehicle to be exploited by terrorists -- is a critical element of what we have to do at the Department of Homeland Security. So how do we do it? Well sometimes I hear people say, “You don’t inspect 100% of the containers that come in to the United States and we have to get to the point where we inspect 100% of the containers.” Now I pause so you can all assimilate what that would mean. Sometimes I respond by saying, “Well, Congressman, let’s try an experiment. Let’s have a pilot program where we do it in the port in your state, but before you agree to it, why don’t you go to the longshoremen and ask them where they’re going to work in their next job, because the port will be shut down.”
That’s an example of the kinds of issues we face. It’s what I call the challenge of risk management: recognizing that we can’t protect everybody against everything, at every moment, in every place. Even if we could, it would be at humongous cost to things that we value, and therefore we have to balance the risk. We have to focus on the most serious risks. We have to do a cost-benefit analysis about how much security, and we have to make intelligent and rational decisions about it. But at the same time there’s always emotion running below the surface. It’s easy for people, particularly in the wake of a particular event, to say, “Well, why don’t we just close everything down? Why don’t we just put a guard on every container?” And the challenge for me, and frankly the challenge for the business community, is to continue to educate the public that we don’t make rational policy and security by reacting to particular events or particular anecdotes. We do it by always looking at the intended, and the unintended, consequences and weighing the benefits and costs of what we do.
So how do we do it with respect to seaports? Well we use a layered series of defenses. We recognize that there are vulnerabilities that begin at the port of embarkation, continue through the supply chain as you stuff the container and load the container, continue as the vessel leaves the port and comes to the port of destination, and then continue even in the port of destination where we have to be concerned about who might get access to containers or ships when they are in a port unloading.
To make sure that we address all these issues, but do it in a way that gives us resilience if one level of defense fails, we begin our security at the port of embarkation. We work with the international community and international port standards, using the Coast Guard to work with foreign governments to make sure their security levels at foreign ports reach the standards that have been set by the international community. Our Container Security Initiative, which was pioneered among other places here in Singapore, puts U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials into foreign ports to work with foreign customs officials. First of all, they screen every container that comes to the United States, and screen doesn’t mean open and inspect, but it means they get information about what’s in the container to make a risk assessment of what we ought to get into and what we should not get into. And then we work with them to inspect high-risk containers overseas before they even get on the ship to come to the United States. By the end of this year, 82% of the containers coming to the U.S. through maritime commerce will be coming through a Container Security Initiative country. This means, from the United States’ standpoint, we’ll be doing the inspection at the earliest possible time. This is good for the ports of embarkation, because it means the containers are going to spend less time when they arrive, and it’s good for the United States’ security.
We leverage the private sector with our Customs - Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. We say to the private sector, ‘If you are willing to invest in security, above and beyond what the government does, you’ll get credit for that in terms of inspection. We will speed your containers through more readily because we’ll have a comfort level about the security of what is in the containers, both in terms of initial stuffing and in terms of potential tampering.’
And finally, we’re leveraging technology. The thing we fear the most, of course, with containers is bringing in some sort of deadly material like a nuclear bomb or radioactive material. Here the key is radiation detection equipment which can detect radioactive emissions quickly, as you’re moving containers through rapidly, so that you don’t sacrifice your through-put in order to get your security assessment of the potential of the radioactive bomb or a nuclear bomb on a container. There again, our MegaPorts initiative, undertaken with the Department of Energy, works to put radiation portal monitors in major ports all over the world as a way of counter-acting the danger of proliferation. I’m pleased to say that we have a written agreement here with the Government of Singapore on MegaPorts, and within a matter of days it will be implemented as a pilot here in the Port of Singapore. I think that is a great model.
But I want to take you to the next level, and I want to give you a vision of where we’re going to go to strengthen our port security. Last year, I unveiled what we call a Secure Freight Initiative, which is a desire to take our screening and inspection capabilities to the next level. There are three parts to this.
The first is more information. The way we screen high risk is that we look at all the data we have about the shipper, the consignee, the method of payment, and other characteristics. We measure that against the database, which has a very large amount of information about the history of transactions, including these actors and other actors. We use algorithms that we’ve been able to devise over time to score risk, and then weentify the containers that are high risk under that method of analysis. Those are the ones that we then spend the time on, x-raying and potentially even breaking bulk and getting into the container itself. It will become obvious that the more information we have about what goes into the container at an earlier stage in the supply chain, the more precise our screening, the more intelligent our decision-making, and the better our security.
So we’re going to be looking in the next year or two to build a capacity to have better information about what’s in containers. And we’re going to look to the private sector to pioneer in this: to develop better databases and better control over what are the constituents of the containers, and to work to assimilate that information and be able to present it to our officials in a way that is readily available and can be readily analyzed. And then, using technology, build in ways of protecting the containers against tampering and ways of tracking the containers so we can detect anomalies.
The name of the game here is essentially to profile the containers. The more we profile them, and the better we profile them, the more our security will be enhanced. This is definitely something the private sector can leverage to its own advantage. The bottom line for people who ship is that you want to get it there quickly. You don’t want to be sitting there in the Port of Long Beach for two weeks while your containers are being looked at. The more the private sector is prepared to assemble this information and make it available, and to invest in security for the containers, the less likely it is that their containers will be stopped and inspected on the U.S. side, and the quicker the material will get to where it has to go.
The short answer is that investments up front – and an hour or two ahead of time – can save days and weeks at the receiving end. My hunch is that this will be a methodology that will be used not only by our ports, but by ports all over Europe and Asia that are receiving goods, and that we are going to generally raise the level of security across the board.
The second area is people. We still have to make sure that bad people don’t get into these containers, even if we can put security on the containers themselves. And that means protecting the ports. We’re going to continue to move aggressively with our port inspection program under these international standards overseas. In our own country we are, I think, a little bit overdue on unveiling our Transportation Workerentification Credential for the ports. But this year we will get well underway in getting the kind of screening and background checking for port workers in the U.S. that is appropriate, given the fact that our ports are a very significant piece of critical infrastructure.
Third, we’re going to continue to push forward on technology. Next year we will get to close to 100% radiation portal monitors in U.S. ports, meaning 100% -- or close to 100% -- of all the containers will go through radiation portal monitors in the U.S. before they get into the stream of commerce. But we want to build the next level of monitors: lighter, quicker, cheaper, and more precise.
In an effort to do that, we’ve set up a Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which is going to be our program manager for 21st century innovation, research, and deployment of anti-nuclear detection equipment. I think we all understand that perhaps the greatest threat and the one we have to work hardest to prevent – because there is very little you can do to respond – is the possibility of a nuclear device being detonated by a terrorist. Unlike other kinds of threats where response and protection can mitigate the damage, there is not much protection against a nuclear bomb and there is not a lot of response. You better prevent it up front. And that’s why we’re putting in a substantial investment: the President’s budget this year is going to put over $500 million into this effort.
But it’s not all negative. It’s not all keeping things out. It’s also encouraging things to come in. Earlier this year, Secretary Rice and I put together an initiative to try to promote easier and more welcoming flow of people into the United States. Recognizing that while we continue to want to screen people against our various watch lists and using our U.S. VISIT biometric program, we don’t want that to be an onerous or discouraging vision for people who want to come to the United States.
The United States benefits when people are encouraged to work, study, and travel in our country. That means working to increase the number of visas for students and technological workers. It also means making the airports welcome. It mea