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Secretary Chertoff’s Remarks at the University of Southern California DHS Center of Excellence on Security in the 21st Century


Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California
Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events.

Secretary Chertoff: Thank you for that introduction and for the opportunity to speak to you today. As everyone knows, one of our nation’s greatest strengths is the quality of its research universities and so it’s fitting that a number of them have helped us create special Homeland Security Centers of Excellence to serve our country in our post-9/11 world. I’m pleased that my department funds these centers across the nation, including our very first Center, right here at USC – the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, or CREATE. I’m also pleased that this past spring, we gave this program an $11 million, three-year grant renewal.

The CREATE program brings together some of the finest scholars and researchers in the fight against terrorism. Using some of the most advanced models and tools available, these remarkable people are helping us to assess the risks of terrorism, gauge its economic consequences, and propose and evaluate strategies for making us safer and more secure. It is precisely this type of cost-benefit, risk-management approach that is needed to help prevent the kind of catastrophic attack we sustained on 9/11.

Let me remind you that it was Osama Bin Laden himself who spoke about the horrific 9/11 attack in cost/benefit terms. In a post on the Al-Jazeerah site in November of 2004, the same year that CREATE was launched, he claimed that while al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the 9/11 attacks, his organization inflicted more than $500 billion in economic damage. He concluded that every dollar of his terrorist group and I quote, “defeated a million dollars….besides a loss of a huge number of jobs.” Clearly we need programs like CREATE to help frustrate the plans of terrorists who want to destroy our economy and our way of life.

I’m very pleased that CREATE is taking a leadership role in forging alliances with other Centers of Excellence, and with other U.S. and foreign universities to tackle the complex problems that terrorism causes. CREATE’s focus on reducing risks and costs has already led to a host of valuable projects for our country. Let me cite a just a few examples:

* A major economic analysis coinciding with last year’s Bioterrorism Risk Assessment Report to the President, informing national policy of the costs and consequences of biological attacks and countermeasures;
* Training for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to assess the risks of people and goods coming across our borders;
* A cost/benefit analysis for installing measures to prevent shoulder-fired missile attacks on commercial aircraft;
* A cost analysis of closing the border to stop the spread of Avian Influenza;
* An analysis of the most cost-effective ways to reduce risks from attacks on California’s critical infrastructure;
* An assessment of the probability of successful terrorist attacks in a variety of scenarios;
* Determining the way to minimize risk to firefighters through computer-simulated training for incident commanders; and,
* An assessment of the economic consequences of closing the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles from a dirty bomb attack.

Ports and Our Economy

Earlier today, I spoke at the Port of Los Angeles, which is the busiest port in our country. 44% of all U.S. imports enter through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. So how much money are we talking about? Simply put, $295 billion. That number should tell us just how critical our ports remain to our economy. Clearly, if terrorists want to devastate our economy, then from a cost/benefit perspective, one way of doing that is to launch devastating attacks on these essential vehicles for commerce and trade.
Port Security: Three Principles

So the need for port security couldn’t be more clear. Today I want to focus on what we’re doing to secure these vital pieces of infrastructure as well as the cargo that flow through them on a daily basis. Let me start by citing three key principles we’re employing. First, we believe in partnership. Port security has to mean a partnership between government and the private sector. Why? First, because government doesn’t own or manage the ports. The private sector does. And second, because when we talk about ports, we’re talking about commerce within the private sector. So clearly, we need public/private cooperation in order to keep our ports safe.

Besides partnership, we also believe in risk management – not risk elimination. If we tried to eliminate literally every risk, we’d fail, for the simple reason that risk elimination is impossible. Moreover, we’d become so heavy-handed about security, we’d end up destroying exactly what we’re trying to protect – and by that, I mean the normal, daily commerce that occurs at our ports. What risk management lets us do is identify what should concern us most in terms of threats, map those threats against existing vulnerabilities, and take steps to mitigate the potential consequences.

And finally, we believe in a layered approach to security. Our aim is to create rings of protection around the ports and throughout the maritime supply chain – from point of origin to point of destination. All three of these principles – especially the risk management principle – are consistent with what CREATE is about and how it is helping us secure our homeland, including our ports of entry.
Port Security: Dangerous Cargo

So what have we been doing to protect our ports? In line with our three principles, we’re essentially deploying a two-pronged strategy: First, we’re focused on locating and removing dangerous cargo. Second, we’re investing in the protection of the infrastructure at our ports.
Partnering and Managing Risk Overseas

Let’s talk first about the outermost layer, what we’re doing overseas. We’ve created a public-private and international partnership with more than 7,000 businesses, including most of the largest U.S. importers. Through our Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT, we’re reviewing the security practices not only of the company shipping the goods, but also the companies that provided them with services. With respect to cargo, we screen 100% of containers before they come into our country.

Now what do I mean by screening? I mean we require information about every incoming shipment, including content, manifests, shipping history and other data. We call this information-based targeting and as part of this process, we’ve put in place our Container Security Initiative, where we deploy our Customs and Border Protection officers who work with port officials overseas to review the information that’s been collected. These officers will then physically inspect any container that has been designated as high-risk cargo. Our Container Security Initiative is now active in more than 50 overseas ports accounting for 85 percent of container traffic bound for the United States. And as these containers transit the international supply chain, we are installing radiation detection equipment to scan 100% of them in selected overseas ports for radiological or nuclear emissions through our Secure Freight Initiative. It’s part of what we call a Hong Kong integrated approach, where we have radiation portals operating simultaneously with traditional x-ray technology. This is extremely critical to our efforts to keep WMDs out of the supply chain.

This program exceeds the requirements of the SAFE Ports Act passed by Congress last year, which include 100% radiological scanning of cargo in at least three foreign ports. We are actually moving forward to conduct scanning at six overseas ports. We’re now in Phase 1 of this effort and the lessons we learn will help us determine how to continue with future phases of this initiative. Now let me make two key points about our efforts. First, regarding the Secure Freight Initiative, it’s really a terrific example of how international cooperation can help secure the supply chain. Second, the two initiatives I’ve just mentioned – Secure Freight and Container Security – highlight the difference between scanning and screening.

Simply put, when we scan cargo, we’re trying to determine the contents of every item, but when we screen cargo, we’re simply collecting information about these items so we can assess them for risk. And that leads to an obvious question: Why in the world don’t we physically inspect everything? That’s what some members of Congress say we should do. So why don’t we do it?

Well, remember what I said about our risk management philosophy? We simply cannot eliminate all risk and even if we tried, we’d end up shutting down the very systems we’re trying to protect. Given the current level of technology, a risk elimination strategy would require us to fully examine the contents of every piece of cargo and if we did that, we would bring commerce to a screeching halt. Since part of what we’re trying to do is protect commerce, that would clearly be self-defeating.

Moreover, scanning cargo containers overseas requires permission of foreign governments that own and operate the ports. Congress can’t tell foreign governments what to do. That’s why our Container Security Initiative is about 100% screening rather than scanning, and scanning where appropriate. Now what our risk management philosophy and our current state of technology does allow us to do is to scan specifically for radiation, because the consequences of a WMD entering our country would be catastrophic. So that’s why we have a Secure Freight Initiative that requires 100% scanning as opposed to screening.
At Home: 1,000 RPMs Plus ASP

Consequently, not just overseas but right here at home, in our own U.S. ports, we’ve significantly expanded our radiation detection capabilities. In fact, we’ve just reached a milestone in that we now have installed 1,000 Radiation Portal Monitors (RPMs) at major seaports and land ports of entry across the nation. One of my goals for our Department is to deploy radiation detection systems at all of the nation’s ports of entry so we can scan every vehicle and cargo container entering the U.S. for radiation. In just two years, we’ve more than doubled the percentage of incoming containerized cargo being scanned for radiological and nuclear threats at our land borders (from 40% to 93%) and more than quadrupled that percentage at seaports (from about 20% to 90%). By the end of next year, we will scan nearly 100% of inbound cargo containers for such deadly material. And to help us reach this goal, we are beginning to test what we expect to be the next generation of scanning technology – Advanced Spectroscopic Portals, or ASP.

The ASP program is designed to automatically distinguish between naturally occurring radioactive material and dangerous nuclear material that actually poses a threat. These advanced systems are not only meant to provide enhanced detection capabilities, but also to improve the efficiency of the scanning process. Currently, when a container activates an alarm, our Customs and Border Protection Officers must examine the container and the enclosed material to determine whether it poses a threat or is a legitimate import with naturally occurring radiation.

On an average day, the Ports of LA and Long Beach experience between 400 and 600 alarms. ASP systems have the potential of significantly reducing that number. These systems remain very promising. Our next step will be to complete additional field testing and other rigorous certification measures in busy environments. Once we’re done, we will report back to Congress with our results before we do a full-scale procurement.
Securing the International Supply Chain: A Comprehensive Strategy

All of the efforts I’ve mentioned thus far are part of a comprehensive strategy to protect the international supply chain. Earlier this month, the Department submitted to Congress an initial version of our Strategy to Enhance International Supply Chain Security. This plan, which Congress required through the SAFE Port Act of 2006, establishes the overarching framework for the secure flow of cargo through the international supply chain. It builds on existing national plans to provide an overall structure that fuses together the efforts of federal, state, local, private sector and international stakeholders to secure the cargo that travels through our ports. And perhaps more importantly, it specifically focuses on resumption of trade following an incident. This strategy establishes clear roles and responsibilities and strengthens our ability to prepare for and respond to a major disruption of the supply chain.
Port Grants

So that, in essence, is how we’re protecting our ports by screening for dangerous cargo. But as I’ve previously mentioned, we’re also protecting our ports by investing in them. If you look at federal port security expenditures in terms of funding for the Coast Guard, CBP, radiation detection equipment, investment in advance technology and test beds, and other efforts, this administration has spent nearly $13 billion on port security since DHS was created. Now unfortunately, when people say we’re not investing enough money, they don’t cite this number. They tend to cite only our Homeland Security grants. But even here, we have made a considerable investment.

In May of this year, we awarded a total of $202 million in port security grants. That includes $15 million to the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach, as well as $14 million to California’s Bay-area ports. Since 2002, we’ve given LA-Long Beach more than $107 million just in port security grants. In all, we’ve awarded more than $1 billion to state and local governments, port authorities, and the private sector to improve port security since 9/11. Additional supplemental grants will be soon be awarded. And the President’s budget for fiscal year 2008 requests yet another $210 million for port security grants.

These grant funds are being used specifically to build capabilities in and around the port areas covering the full spectrum of prevention, protection, response and recovery. For example, we awarded the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container port in the United States $8 million to build a new command-and-control center that, once completed, will house and operate the port’s main security facility. It will support Federal, state and local security personnel with 24-7 surveillance capabilities.

This year, we’ve refined and strengthened our risk analysis. In line with our risk-management philosophy, our goal is to invest resources where risk is greatest and where the funds will have the greatest impact. We also placed a greater emphasis on geographic risk. As a result, in some cases, individual ports were clustered into a single funding area to reflect geographic proximity of the assets, shared risk, and shared waterways. We asked grant applicants to focus on a set of key priorities this year. Specifically, we wanted to fund projects that increased situational awareness in and around the port areas, addressed the significant threat posed by improvised explosive devices, expanded training and exercises, and supported our overall national preparedness priorities.
Small Boats

I’ve talked to you about how we’re securing our ports by identifying and removing dangerous cargo and also by providing further protection through our port grants. As we look to the future, we also want to implement sensible security measures specifically regarding small boats. There are more than 17 million of these vessels operating in U.S. waters. They range from commercial enterprises to passenger ferries to canoes and personal watercraft. Basically, we’re concerned about four potential security threats with regard to these boats.

First, we’re concerned about their use to smuggle weapons, including a WMD, into our country. Second, we’re concerned about their use as a water-borne improvised explosive device, a use which was actually deployed in 2000 through al-Qaida’s attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Third, we want to prevent the use of a small vessel to smuggle dangerous people into our country. And finally, we’re concerned about these boats being used as launching pads for an attack on the maritime industry or on critical infrastructure.

Now how do we defend against these threats? The short answer is by applying the same risk-management, partnership, and layering principles I’ve already outlined. Through the various initiatives I’ve already discussed, we are indeed making strides in protecting our ports from these kinds of threats. But now we need security measures that are specifically geared to small vessels. We need such measures to enhance protection and yet balance our need for freedom of movement, privacy, and economic vitality.

Most of all, we need the kind of rigorous thinking and analysis that will lead us to innovative solutions, on small vessels and in every other area that relates to the securing of our homeland. We want to do in the near future what we could not do in the years leading up to 9/11. Yes, we will continue working with Congress and with the private sector. Yes we will continue implementing our principles as we strive to protect our ports, our economy, and our way of life. Yes, we are convinced that this approach has made us more secure than we were before 9/11. But as part of this approach, we will keep looking to our Centers of Excellence for fresh, new, cutting-edge ideas so that our progress may continue. And we will definitely keep looking to you who are part of the CREATE program.

I cannot stress enough how important you are to this process. So let this be a special word of exhortation and encouragement to all of you.

On behalf of this nation and its people, to every professional in the CREATE program, thank you for your outstanding work. May you continue to contribute greatly as we work together to make our homeland safer and more secure for all Americans. Thank you.


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