Terrorist threats to the North American supply chain require a
new co-ordinated approach to security, according to
Network-Centric Security for Canada-U.S. Supply Chains, co-published by The Fraser Institute and the Washington-based
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and
The North American logistical system for moving commercial
goods poses a special attraction for terrorists. The large spaces
within sea containers or truck vans can easily conceal, and then
deliver for detonation, a range of weapons. In addition to the
substantial loss of life and property that could result, such an
attack could shut down U.S./Canada trade for an extended period.
Focusing on the U.S./Canada border, this new paper shows a way
for business and government to work together to dramatically
broaden and deepen supply chain security.
"It is the unprecedented stealth and lethality of the
post-September 11 threat that thrusts private firms into a
heightened role in protecting their own infrastructure and
operations," said Joel Webber, author of the paper and a
Webber shows how existing technology could transform the supply
chain. A move to "network-centric security" would pool
information from all participants in the supply chain, from port
operators to shippers, to receivers. Using computer and satellite
tracking capabilities, the system would follow each shipment from
its loading to delivery. By incorporating wireless devices,
electronic seals, sensors, and logistics software that is already
available, each transaction in the system would be visible
remotely in real time and at multiple locations.
This new protocol would augment manual searches and machine scans
at ports and border checkpoints, which are today's main source of
direct observation of freight flows.
"For the next stage of post-September 11 supply chain security,
Canada and the United States can better protect their mutual
freight flows against terrorist penetration by engaging the
logistics system on its own operational terms, thereby keeping it
moving while also making it safe," said Webber.
At its core, the new network-centric approach makes terrorist
penetration significantly more difficult by rendering the supply
chain visible at all times to government agencies and officials
who can protect against such breaches.
Webber proposes three key components of a new system:
- Network-centric security, instead of today's
- Combining supply chain and security expertise in a
private/public sector consortium, instead of having government
officials impose a plan.
- Employing commercial and security incentives to create
compliance, rather than compulsion. Incentives could include
expedited port and border clearance, tax benefits, and
"Adapting the most advanced twenty-first century trade
relationship to cope with the most perilous of twenty-first
century risks will require the innovative application of more
than just technology," he pointed out.
Webber shows how the private sector can lead this new initiative
by working with government through a joint consortium that would
have similarities to the existing International Standards
Organization (ISO) model. He points out that businesses,
especially competing businesses, have already found ways to work
together to develop standards in areas from computing to
television. Developing standards, implementing strategies, and
managing membership would be key tasks of the new security
consortium, though direct government involvement would be a
"Whether we opt for the stop-and-search model or a
network-centric one has important implications for both our
physical safety and economic stability. The sooner we decide on
one over the other, the greater our ability will be to protect
ourselves against possible asymmetric threats hidden within our
freight system," concluded Webber.
"Despite new technology employed at the border, we still use
nineteenth century border strategy for the twenty-first century
supply chain against a threat that was unimaginable even a few
years ago" added Fred McMahon of The Fraser Institute. "We have
to stay ahead of the terrorist threat and we aren't.
Network-centric security takes us a leap ahead."