US ports are at risk of an attack by radioactive 'dirty bombs', according to a supply chain expert testifying on Capitol Hill.
Stephen Flynn, a former policy adviser to President Barack Obama,
warned that only 19% of containers arriving in the United States in 2013
deemed by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to be at high risk for
containing a weapon of mass destruction were inspected at a foreign
One of the reasons, according to Flynn's testimony on 27 October
before the maritime subcommittee of the US House of Representative's
transportation committee, is that such inspections can disrupt port
"If CBP routinely asked that as little as 1 to 2% of US-bound
containers in a major overseas port to be subject to examination before
loading, it would likely completely overwhelm the inspection facility,"
To reduce the risk of a dirty bomb attack, Flynn suggested that the
USD3 billion to USD5 billion it would cost to deploy non-intrusive
container inspection equipment at ports around the world could be paid
for through a USD10 to USD15 per container security fee, much like the
security fees charged by airlines.
"Such a fee-based cost-recovery approach would allow for equipment to
be upgraded with new technologies as frequently as every two years,"
Meanwhile, almost 10 years have passed since radiation portal
monitors (RPMs) were mandated in the United States, and "questions have
been raised regarding who pays for the maintenance of the RPMs, who is
responsible for paying for new portals during a port expansion, and what
is the long-term obligation for the next generation," according to
testimony submitted to the hearing by the American Association of Port
The group urged that CBP "request adequate federal funding to
purchase, install, and maintain all RPM equipment at ports throughout
the United States".
Alternatively, the US Department of Homeland Security should consider
creating a standalone priority for funding RPMs within the agency's
Port Security Grant Program, the AAPA said.