US Congress Proposes Voluntary Air Cargo Screening

The US Senate Subcommittee on Transportation Security has proposed a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) bill, which includes a voluntary air cargo screening program.

The proposed air cargo advanced screening (ACAS) program encourages cargo carriers to provide shipment level data for air cargo bound for the US, enabling the TSA to target and inspect high-risk cargo at the point of departure.

Per ACAS, the advance information must be submitted electronically no later than loading of the cargo onto aircraft at the last point of departure before entering the US.

"Screening all cargo before flight to the United States would slow the international supply chain to a crawl. Given the tones of air cargo shipped every day, a risk-based approach is the only feasible solution to finding threats in the supply chain," says an American Airlines Cargo blog.

The TSA bill also establishes a certification process for third-party explosives detection dogs to be used in air cargo screening.

Congress is taking a collaborative approach to ACAS, with plans to consult with the industry to ensure the program is "operationally feasible and practical."

If adopted, the program will take a noticeably different direction than the TSA's original 100 percent screening mandate, which was scheduled to take effect at the end of the year, but is rumored to have been postponed.

HR 3011, entitled the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act of 2011, was introduced by Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama, and is currently in committee review.