USA Today reports that the Department of Homeland Security says it cannot meet a 2012 congressional deadline for scanning 100 percent of cargo containers headed to U.S. ports, and instead will gather more information about the cargos’ origins and handling.

The recognition of 100 percent scanning’s impracticality is good, but the information-gathering process could also impose real anti-competitive burdens on manpower and schedules.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” says Frank Vargo of the National Association of Manufacturers. He says Chertoff’s plan will slow trade and could cost the industry as much as $20 billion a year. “It will result in a two-day — maybe a five-day — delay before that container (is cleared) and can be loaded onto a ship.”

Security experts agree that 100% scanning would be very difficult to achieve. “It’s not practical, and there’s no threat that justifies it,” says James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Heritage’s Foundry blog has more, “Common Sense Prevails at DHS.”

The information-gathering program is known as 10+2 and has also sparked considerable concern in the private sector about new costs and delays. In July, the NAM joined 40 trade associations in calling for a pilot project to ascertain the impact of 10+2. From our news release:

“The rule proposed by Customs requires 10 new categories of data on U.S. bound shipments 24 hours before loading in foreign ports,” said Catherine Robinson, Associate Director for High Tech Trade Policy. “That would add tremendous cost to U.S. manufacturing at a time when increasing global competition and a slowing domestic economy are creating new stresses on U.S.-based manufacturers from every sector. National security and trade facilitation need not be mutually exclusive. National security can be enhanced without impeding commerce.

“A prototype program would enable customs to get it right and save U.S. business and the government from having to make multiple changes to their operations,” Robinson said.

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