DHS: Technology gaps slowing port security efforts

The Homeland Security Department plans to tell lawmakers Thursday that it can carry out most provisions of a new maritime security law, but that it lacks the technology to comply with such congressional requirements as having card readers for new worker identification credentials.

Until a capable card reader can be developed, ID cards will have to be checked the old fashioned way by eyeballing ID photos to make sure they match the cardholders.

In joint testimony prepared for a House Homeland Security Border Subcommittee hearing, three officials say such technology gaps prevent full compliance with the SAFE Port Act, which was signed into law six months ago.

The inability of existing devices to read ID cards that will be issued under the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program is perhaps the most glaring example of the gap between a level of security mandated by Congress and available technology.

Although deploying card readers is not an actual requirement under the new law, lawmakers from both parties have said that for the TWIC program to be effective, it must have card readers to verify the identity of workers.

The officials slated to appear at Thursday's hearing -- Coast Guard Adm. Craig Bone, Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner Jayson Ahern and Maurine Fanguy, the TWIC program director -- do not provide in their testimony a timeline for deploying card readers.

"The card reader requirement is being formulated and coordinated by extensive technical input from industry and the public," the officials say in testimony obtained by CongressDaily. "In the interim, workers seeking unescorted access to secure areas will present their cards to authorized personnel, who will compare the photo, inspect security features on the card, and evaluate the card for signs of tampering."

Other technological challenges will make it hard to comply with the law's requirements for cargo container security standards and procedures, the officials say. The law requires the department to ensure that all containers are scanned abroad by integrated scanning systems "as soon as possible."

To set minimum standards for container security, "it is first necessary to ensure that there are available solutions that would significantly improve container security without significantly disrupting the flow of legitimate commerce," the officials say.

But, they add: "The department does not believe that, at the present time, the necessary technology exists for such solutions. The department is actively working with industry to test different technologies and methodologies that would provide economically and operationally viable enhancements to container security."

The department initiated test programs at six foreign ports to evaluate the technology and feasibility of scanning all shipping containers. The officials say the department is on track to meet reporting deadlines for this requirement.

The department will also scan 98 percent of all cargo for radioactive materials at the nation's top 22 seaports by the end of 2007, the officials say. The new law requires 100 percent of the cargo to be scanned at these ports.

The department is also required to deploy "next-generation radiation detection technology" at these ports. But that technology, known as advanced spectroscopic portals, is still being tested, the officials say.

"Future deployments of ASPs will allow [the department] to quickly differentiate between benign materials such as kitty litter or granite, while determining which shipments pose a true risk," they say. "This will perfectly fit with [the department's] twin goals of increasing security while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and people."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.