Homeland Security to Plot Course for Scanning Small Vesselshttp://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/siteservices/full_edition.php?Edition=07/22/2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The U.S. Homeland Security Department could soon decide the fate of an experimental line of radiation detection gear designed to spot contraband nuclear material on small vessels, the Government Accountability Office said in a report made public yesterday (see GSN, July 27, 2009).
The department is conducting a number of three-year pilot programs to design, test, and assess the equipment. It is collaborating with with the Coast Guard and other entities at all levels of government as they establish "procedures for screening," congressional investigators wrote in the report.
The department is expected to determine its future plans for the monitoring program once the pilot efforts conclude this year, the document states. Preliminary feedback from officials involved in the pilot programs has been favorable, Homeland Security officials told auditors.
The department believes its Port Security Grant Program could provide future funding for radiation detection measures established under the pilot efforts, the report says (see GSN, July 1; Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire, July 22).
The report raises concerns about the department's broader efforts to address threats posed by potential small-vessel attacks. Systems designed to monitor the movements of a wide array of ships are typically unable to spot small boats, and Coast Guard resource limitations have hindered the service's ability to meet security objectives, the document asserts.
Homeland Security officials have been working with other federal agencies to better finance a 6-year-old initiative aimed at improving security measures at non-U.S. ports, the report states. The success of the International Port Security Program was limited in some countries by concerns about self-determination, and funding shortfalls have restricted what assistance the initiative could offer poor nations, the report's authors wrote.
Technical problems have slowed down efforts under the Secure Freight Initiative to scan all U.S.-bound cargo containers for radioactive materials, the document says (see GSN, March 31; U.S. Government Accountability Office release, July 21).