U.S. National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security Finally Announced — Much Work Left to Do

Stephen DeAngelis

February 02, 2012

Last fall, American Shipper magazine noted that several years had passed since Congress first “directed DHS to develop a global supply chain security strategy.” [“Government’s Plan to Secure the Global Supply Chain Is in Slow Gear,” ,em>SupplyChainBrain,/em., 1 September 2011] They indicated that the delay was due in part to an expanded mandated directed by the Obama administration that extended “the effort’s reach to encompass the entire government and how it should strive to enhance the security of cross-border freight transportation across all modes.” On 25 January 2o12, the long-awaited National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security was finally released. A White House press release stated:

“International trade is vital to the American economy and supports our way of life. Businesses today have global footprints and are supported by an ever evolving global supply chain system. As a number of recent events remind us, this system is dynamic and complex but also vulnerable to numerous threats. These threats, such as pandemics, natural disasters, or attacks involving weapons of mass destruction could undermine the continuity of the global supply chain system as a whole. Also, because of the interconnectedness of the system, even smaller, localized events could escalate rapidly and cause significant disruptions.” [“National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security Announced,” by Christa Brzozowski, The White House Blog, 25 January 2012]

The release went on to assert that the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security was an important first step in strengthening and protecting this vital system. It continues:

“The Strategy, focused on the worldwide network of transportation, postal, and shipping assets and supporting infrastructures, articulates our national vision and approach, and encourages collaborative implementation with key State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector and international stakeholders. This Strategy provides an integrated United States Government perspective on a complex and global issue. It recognizes that we can and must promote security and efficiency in the supply chain system rather than seek to ‘balance’ them as mutually exclusive ends. It emphasizes our need to foster a resilient system that can absorb shocks and recover rapidly from disruptions. And it endorses an overall approach that involves integrating efforts to manage risk, leverage a layered defense, and identify and resolve threats as early as possible.”

It’s clear that improving supply chain security is going to require greater data sharing among stakeholders. Needless to say, organizations have concerns about sharing data (especially propriety data) with others. The release notes that “much of the global supply chain is owned and operated by entities outside of the United States Government.” It should have stated “most” rather “much” of the global supply chain is owned and operated by stakeholders not associated with the Federal Government. The release concedes that “the success of this strategy will depend upon [the U.S. Government’s] ability to work with other stakeholders.” The release concludes:

“We are committed to working in coordination with industry partners, the international community, and others around the globe to translate this strategic vision into concrete action. At a time when budgets are constrained, we will seek to develop smarter solutions and new efficiencies by enhancing our information sharing procedures and capabilities, synchronizing standards and procedures, prioritizing and aligning activities according to risk management principles, and leveraging the expertise and resources of industry and foreign partners in pursuit of our shared interests.”

My company, Enterra Solutions, believes that Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) offers one of the most promising ways to share information securely. Enterra has already helped make the Delaware River port region more secure through the implementation of closed circuit television emergency response sharing scheme based on ABAC. For more information, click on the following link. The same kind of approach can be used for sharing other kinds of sensitive information. Commenting on the new national security strategy, Bob Ferrari writes that he “applauds this initiative” and he encourages “fellow supply bloggers, [supply] chain social media influencers, and professional groups such as [the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)] to do the same.” [“Let’s Get Behind White House Initiative for Global Supply Chain Security,” Supply Chain Matters, 27 January 2011] He continues:

“The initiative … acknowledges that: ‘The global supply chain system that supports trade is essential to the United States’ economy and security and is a critical global asset.’ The effort is directed at articulating policies to strengthen inbound and outbound supply chains within the U.S. and its trading partners. The outlined document provides further details including the key objectives needing to be addressed in an implementation plan which readers can review.”

The Executive Summary of the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security states:

“International trade has been and continues to be a powerful engine of United States and global economic growth. In recent years, communications technology advances and trade barrier and production cost reductions have contributed to global capital market expansion and new economic opportunity. The global supply chain system that supports this trade is essential to the United States’ economy and is a critical global asset.

“Through the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security (the Strategy), we articulate the United States Government’s policy to strengthen the global supply chain in order to protect the welfare and interests of the American people and secure our Nation’s economic prosperity. Our focus in this Strategy is the worldwide network of transportation, postal, and shipping pathways, assets, and infrastructures by which goods are moved from the point of manufacture until they reach an end consumer, as well as supporting communications infrastructure and systems. The Strategy includes two goals:

Goal 1: Promote the Efficient and Secure Movement of Goods – The first goal of the Strategy is to promote the timely, efficient flow of legitimate commerce while protecting and securing the supply chain from exploitation, and reducing its vulnerability to disruption. To achieve this goal we will enhance the integrity of goods as they move through the global supply chain. We will also understand and resolve threats early in the process, and strengthen the security of physical infrastructures, conveyances and information assets, while seeking to maximize trade through modernizing supply chain infrastructures and processes.

Goal 2: Foster a Resilient Supply Chain – The second goal of the Strategy is to foster a global supply chain system that is prepared for, and can withstand, evolving threats and hazards and can recover rapidly from disruptions. To achieve this we will prioritize efforts to mitigate systemic vulnerabilities and refine plans to reconstitute the flow of commerce after disruptions.

“Our approach is informed by the following guiding principles:

Galvanize Action – Integrate and spur efforts across the United States Government, as well as with state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the private sector and the international community.

Manage Supply Chain Risk – Identify, assess, and prioritize efforts to manage risk by utilizing layered defenses, and adapting our security posture according to the changing security and operational environment.

“In support of the Strategy, at the Federal level, we will update our threat and risk assessments; align programs and resources; and engage government, private sector, and international stakeholders. The purpose of this engagement is to seek specific recommendations to inform and guide our collaborative implementation of the Strategy.”

Ferrari writes:

“The timetable for this initiative is rather aggressive and calls for the Departments of State and Homeland Security to provide recommendations in six months, with implementation of recommendations to begin immediately upon its release. We believe that one of the most important aspects of this initiative is a White House encouragement of input from key stakeholders, including governmental and private sector interests and agencies. The Department of Homeland Security has setup a custom web site that outlines how key stakeholders can submit recommendations.”

Without good input from supply chain stakeholders, you can be assured that whatever is produced will be inadequate, over-burdensome, or off the mark. To highlight this point, I point to a recent experience of supply chain analyst Lora Cecere. She was asked to speak at a Transportation Research Board conference. The Board provides “research to local, state and federal organizations on transportation infrastructure for planning.” [“Can we spend the Money instead on Spaghetti Junction?” Supply Chain Shaman, 26 January 2012] She indicates that the Board has spent over a year interviewing the private sector “to understand how to define supply chains.” She was appalled with how little they had learned. She wrote, “As I spoke to the group designing the roadways, I realized that we had an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the process to expedite plans for the roadways.” I encourage you to read her entire post — it’s eye opening. Supply chain stakeholders need to be proactive in this matter if they want results with which they can live. Ferrari continues:

“What immediately concerns us is that this long overdue initiative has to address two very major issues, either of which would justify its own set of comprehensive initiatives. This includes the threat of a major disruption event such as severe natural disaster or terrorist related, as well as countering a growing proliferation of goods that are illegitimate and not what they are represented to be. The other aspect is that six months is not a lot of time to gather and assimilate stakeholder input, but we suppose that a longer timetable would only elongate this effort without near-term governmental actions in place. Our hope is that industry bodies such as the Supply Chain Risk Leadership Council and the Global Risk Network shepherded by NYU will elect to be active contributors to this effort since each has developed much key learning and recommendations on supply chain resiliency and threats.”

That’s my hope as well. Ferrari concludes:

“A final observation relates to the current toxic political climate that surrounds Washington DC. No doubt, some on the right may elect to seize on the headline of this initiative as an election year political stunt, or another effort directed at more government regulation and oversight. Supply Chain Matters emphatically declares that this initiative is much too critical to be tossed into the current toxic political discourse, and is rather one of the most important efforts needed to insure the economic viability of the U.S. economy. Reflect back on the incidents of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that previously impacted the U.S. Gulf coast and the tragic tsunami and floods that impacted Asia in 2011. Consider the current vulnerabilities of the U.S. west coast or southwest, the U.S. power grid, and other potential threats.”

Ferrari is correct that this issue is too critical to leave in the hands of politicians. By working closely with the bureaucrats at DHS and State, stakeholders should be able to generate more influence and help develop better policies and guidelines than any lobbying efforts could generate in Congress. By stretching the deadline for action beyond the six-months dictated by the current administration, the process could receive more thoughtful inputs and potentially avoid the toxic atmosphere that will hover over Washington, DC, this election year.