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Overview of US Government Security Initiatives

Even before the events of 9/11, security was a priority for the United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). The following initiatives are in place to ensure the highest security along the supply chain. Several initiatives were in place before 9/11, while others started after to continuously improve the security of not only the United States but also the world. Companies must be aware and understand these guidelines to comply with all transportation requirements. Separate articles about each initiative will further explain the reasoning and requirements of each program.

Container Security Initiative (CSI)

For the most efficient supply chain security process, prevention of problems entails security at the source. The CSI is a CBP program that encourages foreign governments to inspect and screen container shipments before leaving port to detect possible security problems. This program sets up the exchange of customs officers between countries so that outbound shipments to a country will be inspected by that country’s customs officers. The CSI focuses on 20 ports around the world where most imported products originate (1). The aim is to reduce the risk of problems on vessels and prevent an explosion in a port before the vessel can be unloaded. (1) Once a vessel departs port, security initiatives must be in place to prevent tampering with containers while in transit.

Smart and Secure Tradelanes (SST)

An industry initiative, SST, was established in October of 2002. The purpose is to identify the tampering of containers while in transit using automated tracking, detection and security technologies. Once the initiative is fully implemented, the goal is for these SST containers to quickly move through U.S. Customs, which is the next step (1).

Automated Targeting System (ATS)

U.S. Customs requires shippers to send a detailed description of cargo being loaded on a vessel destined for the United States at least 24 hours in advance of loading (1). Vessels will not be allowed into U.S. ports without this advance notice. Customs uses the ATS as advanced screening to help choose suspicious shipments to receive inspection.

Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner realizes inspections are costly and slow down the supply chain process (1). The ATS and CSI initiatives are designed to enhance the effectiveness of inspections instead of increasing the inspection rate. Source inspections and detailed prescreenings increase security while also allowing an efficient supply chain process. To increase security and improve the supply chain, the U.S. government is also encouraging companies to streamline their documentation and material handling processes through the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program.

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)

The C-TPAT is a program for manufacturers, suppliers, importers and carriers to analyze their own supply chain security processes. It encourages these companies to improve their supply chain security plans, communicate security plans with their trading partners and suppliers, and monitor and improve their security measures on an ongoing basis (2). Once these companies are C-TPAT certified by the government, their products will be able to proceed through ports and border crossings much faster. They will also develop a closer working relationship with U.S. Customs and other C-TPAT certified companies. The C-TPAT program will enable companies to avoid transportation costs associated with border delays; reduce inventory needs by having a secure, reliable supply chain; and improve supply chain relationships with suppliers and customers (2). More than 500 companies have joined the C-TPAT program to increase their supply chain security processes (2).

Fast and Secure Trade (FAST)

The FAST programs include partnerships between the United States and Mexico and the United States and Canada. Each country has agreed to align clearance processes of commercial shipments at the borders. The initiative “promotes free and secure trade by using common risk-management principles, supply chain security, industry partnerships, and advanced technology (3).” FAST partners are only low risk participants in cross border transportation. The program aims to simply the customs process, harmonize registration and technology, and speed the flow of goods across the borders.

Industry Partnership Programs (IPP)

Industry Partnership Programs are designed to improve relations between the CBP and the commercial community against the war on drugs and terrorism. The IPP works with foreign manufacturers, exporters, carriers, and importers, among others to ensure security across the entire supply chain. These initiatives began as early as 1984 to improve security (4). The IPP initiatives include:

* Carrier Initiative Program (CIP)
* Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition (BASC)
* Americas Counter Smuggling Initiative (ACSI)
* Land Border Carrier Initiative Program (LBCIP)

Automated Commercial Equipment (ACE)

The ACE initiative by the CBP aims to improve its ability to process commercial trade transaction that involves border crossings. The first system, designed in 1984, is currently being updated to handle the increased paperwork and security requirements. The system will automate transaction between customs and the trade community in order to speed up the movements of good through customs and into markets (3). The system will fully automate the collection, processing, and analysis of import and export data, while at the same time ensuring trade law enforcement and preventing terrorism.


(1) Lee, Hau L. and Wolfe, Michael. Supply Chain Security Without Tears. Jan/Feb. 2003. Supply Chain Management Review

(2) McGuire, Michele. The New Era of International Supply Chain Security. November 2002. World Trade.

(3) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), January 20, 2005.

(4) Industry Partnership Programs (IPP), January 20, 2005.