By  on June 15, 2009

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee, which approved $42.6 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security on Friday, acknowledged that a congressional deadline for implementing 100 percent scanning of all U.S.-bound cargo ships is not feasible.

It was the first public admission that the cargo scanning mandate, which Democrats supported and pushed through Congress in 2007, will not be met. Many Republicans backed the existing screening process.

“It has become increasingly clear that, at least for now, a 100 percent scanning goal is not feasible, and even if it were, would come at an unacceptably high cost monetarily and in the displacement of other efforts,” the committee said in a report.

In the 2007 legislation, the Democrat-controlled Congress set a deadline for 700 foreign ports to come online with equipment and man power to scan all U.S.-bound cargo containers for radiation and nuclear weapons by 2012. The mandate came under fire from the business community, including retailers and apparel importers, many of which participate in supply chain security programs with the government. They argued that the technology was not available and that even the slightest delay in clearing Customs in a foreign or U.S. port could interrupt the supply chain and cripple global commerce.

“Even in the major ports participating in the test program, there were serious problems,” said Julia Hughes, senior vice president of international trade of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel. “So to have the U.S. insisting on rolling it out to the whole world was unrealistic.”

Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and Customs policy at the National Retail Federation, said lawmakers “are finally listening to the [Customs] agency. From Day One, we’ve had concerns about whether or not 100 percent scanning could be done, and this is the first time publicly we’ve seen an acknowledgement from Congress that there are issues.”

The appropriations committee also recommended maintaining the funding level of $4.75 million for U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s Textile and Apparel Policies and Programs Office, which oversees textile transshipment and enforcement and counterfeit seizures. The panel approved a cut of $26.3 million in Customs’ overall budget to $7.57 billion, compared with fiscal year 2009.

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