AAAE Annual: Cargo Security Update

Dateline: 84th Annual AAAE Conference and Exposition

(blogging live from the American Association of Airport Executives Annual Conference, Phoenix, Arizona – please forgive spelling and grammatical errors)

AAAE Annual: Cargo Security in a Post-Mandate World
Tracy Fuller, Allied Barton
William Frain, SVP L-3 Communications, Security & Detection Systems
Yvette Rose, SVP Cargo Airline Association
Doug Britton, Division Director Air Cargo, Office of Security & Policy and Industry Engagement, TSA

Key representatives from the airline cargo security industry meeting at the AAAE Annual Seminar.

Frain kicked off the comments by noting that their objectives is to create technology that is upgradeable to meet new threats by upgrading the software, rather than always upgrading the hardware.

The majority of technology is image based – single image, double-sided image, multi-sided, although there is some explosive trace and even some use of canine. L-3’s focus continues to be on predominantly x-ray technology and presenting an image to the operator.

Frain believes that the key to keeping the cargo system moving, is automation, similar to the way the in-line EDS systems currently operate. He notes that one of the hangups remains TSA and that TSA needs to be pushed to approve new technology quicker. However, each country, Germany, France, the U.S., always have different standards, so the x-ray manufacturers have to create slightly different systems in order to meet all the different standards.

Yvette Rose, a “repeat offender” from the Cargo Airline Association, which represents all cargo airlines lead off with a presentation on risk-based, data-driven approach to Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS). ACAS is a pilot program that is currently underway.

ACAS started after the October 2010 Yemen air cargo plot. CBP and TSA collaborated with industry in the development of a pilot program for inbound air cargo. The express, all-cargo operators (FedEx and UPS) were the first to sign up, followed by passenger air carriers and freight forwarders with a plan to expand to the heavy freight operators.

ACAS allows CBP and TSA to receive advance security filing cargo data as a means to target cargo shipments inbound to the United States that may be high risk and require additional physical screening.

[Working Definition: Freight Forwarder – consolidates air freight from multiple shipments to ship on all-cargo and passenger aircraft]

The 2002 Trade Act required that airlines submit data on air cargo shipments to the U.S. CBP and TSA run that information through the CBP Air Automated Manifest System. For ACAS, a pre-loading security screening element added to the existing Air AMS system – directs manifest data to the Automated Targeting System (ATS).

Rose noted that the cargo carriers and passenger carriers already know quite a bit about the shippers and forwarders that ship on their aircraft.

After running through the ATS, certain shipments may be placed on hold, or undergo further screening measures. Some shippers may not want their cargo opened, such as Pfizer the pharmaceutical sales company, so protocols for these types of shipments have to be handled differently. This program is likely to become rulemaking in the near future, possibly in the next year.

Doug Britton, TSA, noted that the U.S. is still trying to make the deadline of screening all inbound cargo. Right now, we’re looking at about 57% of domestic cargo in the industry being screened, but for inbound cargo, there are additional challenges. First, there is a much higher level of volume coming in, TSA only regulates those companies, that are in the U.S. and then, only the forwarders, not the direct shippers.

Although TSA gave a mandate to the cargo industry of 2011 to have all airline cargo screened, the cargo industry said it’s not workable, unless they follow a risk-based approach. The law however says that the Congressional mandate says that 100% of all cargo must be screened – so the challenge remains, implementing a virtually impossible mandate (100% of air cargo screened) in a risk based approach.

One solution being looked at is identifying risk based on the shipper themselves. In parallel with this process, TSA has developed a tiered screening process – therefore, shippers that TSA knows more about, has lesser screening while others receive additional scrutiny and possibly a ‘do not load,’ determination. It’s the same basic concept as PreCheck, the passenger risk-based assessment process.

“We’re applying the same principles to cargo in the U.S. Those that we know less about, we put them through what we call ‘the Full Monty’ screening process, inspecting right down to the piece level. We are taking it from a programatic process to a risk based assessment.”

Cargo screening remains the responsibility of the airline – however, the risk based approach allows the airlines to apply additional screening procedures (that are SSI) on the foreign freight forwarders – who are not regulated by TSA.

Former Atlanta/Hartsfield Airport Director Ben DeCosta asked what would stop a Yemen bomb style plot from coming from Germany. Yvette Rose said that the airlines are using the ACAS system and hopefully advance intelligence gathering and sharing will identify the risk ahead of time. Doug Britton – replied that we learned a lot from Yemen, specifically that the tradecraft has advanced significantly and the sophistication of the device has improved.

Britton noted that the Yemen situation begin in the all-cargo community where they were not required to screen all cargo.

“The Security Directives put into place after Yemen, would have caught both devices (the Yemen bomb and DeCosta’s scenario),” explained Britton.

Jeanne Olivier, aviation security director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, characterized our efforts to get international operators to comply with U.S. security screening standards, as essentially only strong-arming them – and followed up by asking if there are other methods being pursued.

Britton responded that the Cargo Airline Association has done a good job of getting compliance. National Country Security Program, ( was started in 2009, to get international carriers to share their security programs with the U.S., however, many countries were not very forthcoming.

“Over 80% of the cargo comes from 20 countries,” noted Britton. “We’ve received the country programs from the majority of them and they have significantly changed their programs since Yemen.”


One Response to AAAE Annual: Cargo Security Update

  1. Thanks Jeff for the blog. I missed this one and wanted to hear considering we were just discussing in class last week. Really about locking down that 80%, not the whole system

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