To-do in Washington

To-do in Washington

As most of you know, Congress takes off the month of August to get away from the heat and humidity of Washington, and the rest of the government seems to tag along. So it's time to kick back for a review. What Congress has done so far has been pretty noxious. Scan-all-containers became the law of the land just before the August break. Here are a few other things on the legislative and executive to-do list come September:

-- Water Resources Development Act. The House and Senate actually agreed on a bill for the first time in seven years, but the $21 billion price tag has the White House crying veto. The House passed the bill with a big enough margin not to sweat the two-thirds majority to override. The Senate leadership decided that lining up 67 votes could be dicey, so they're waiting until September.

-- Security Filing, or 10+2. Customs and Border Protection reportedly has completed its work on the proposed rule. It's now being mulled over by the Department of Home-land Security. The White House Office of Management and Budget still has its turn at the rule before it's put out for public comment. Customs wants to collect the 12 extra data elements from importers and carriers, the better to identify high-risk containers. 10+2 and the Secure Freight Initiative, which is to test the feasibility of scanning all containers at the loading port, are the first two "legs" of the DHS security tripod. The mysterious "third leg" is . . .

-- The Global Trade Exchange. GTX, for short (sounds like motor oil), is getting wary looks from the trade. GTX is the DHS's concept for a data warehouse that would collect heaps of trade data, then slice, dice and puree them for supply-chain security efforts of world governments. The DHS has been silent on the details, but the fiscal 2008 budget includes $15 million to acquire technology for Secure Freight and GTX. What they don't know about GTX has some traders worried. Turn over sensitive commercial data that foreign governments can share with foreign competitors? Hell no!

-- Transportation Worker Identification Credential. "We are not amused," Queen Victoria reportedly once said, and that could sum up the mood of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. On July 12, Transportation Security Administration witnesses repeated the "Get it right the first time" mantra at a committee hearing. That is, all systems must work correctly when they throw the switch to begin TWIC enrollment. For Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the answer is wearing thin. Cummings vowed to summon the TSA to another hearing in 90 days - Oct. 12. If enrollment hasn't begun at the Port of Wilmington, Del., officials will have some explaining to do.

R.G. Edmonson is a senior editor at The Journal of Commerce. He can be contacted at (202) 355-1143, or at bedmonson@joc.com.