DHS takes over key security programs

DHS takes over key security programs

WASHINGTON - Two key cargo-security programs have been taken away from the Transportation Security Administration, and put under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Security Directorate, Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson said Friday.

Hutchinson told members of the Departmental Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, known as COAC, that his office will direct policy development for container seal standards, and the "secure systems of transportation" initiative. Customs will deploy the programs through the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and the "smart box" project. Hutchinson said that TSA will provide guidance.

Congress called for the seal and secure-systems programs in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. Lawmakers set a Dec. 31, 2003 deadline. TSA officials said that it intended to promulgate standards after analyzing the results of Operation Safe Commerce, which will end this summer.

Hutchinson said that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge had issued new delegation orders moving the two programs to the directorate.

"I think this re-delegation reflects the importance of the mission to the department, to make sure these efforts are coordinated well," Hutchinson said, "and that we have a clear communication to our industry partners as to who is responsible for what."

Hutchinson said that Border and Transportation Security will convene a "container working group" to further develop secure-container ideas. The working group will include both government and industry leaders. It will be led by Elaine Dezenski, who was recently appointed director of cargo security policy for BTS.

Dezenski noted that a task force with an identical name had been formed by Customs and the Department of Transportation just after Sept. 11, 2001. She said the new group will build on the first group's findings, but not "re-invent the wheel."