Retailers Call 100 Percent Cargo Inspection Unworkable

The National Retail Federation today urged the House to reject amendments calling for 100 percent inspection of U.S.-bound air and ocean cargo, saying the proposals would disrupt commerce and are too unworkable to significantly improve security. NRF said action on the amendments, which could come today, would be counted as key votes in NRF’s annual ranking of lawmakers on issues important to the retail industry.
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WASHINGTON, D.C., — The National Retail Federation today urged the House to reject amendments calling for 100 percent inspection of U.S.-bound air and ocean cargo, saying the proposals would disrupt commerce and are too unworkable to significantly improve security. NRF said action on the amendments, which could come today, would be counted as key votes in NRF's annual ranking of lawmakers on issues important to the retail industry.

“American retailers support security initiatives to safeguard the nation from the introduction of dangerous weapons and persons while also protecting retailers' supply chains and brand names,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said in a letter to House members. “However, requiring 100 percent inspection of U.S.-bound air and sea cargo is currently operationally infeasible, technically unreliable, and would cause unacceptably high economic costs and disruptions to the nation's commerce while offering no real improvement in the nation's cargo security system.”

Pfister noted that the Transportation Security Administration and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection currently employ a risk-based approach in targeting potentially high-risk cargo by screening content lists before arrival in the United States and inspecting any cargo identified as a potential security risk.

“Rather than a 100 percent inspection system that cannot be implemented and merely offers a false sense of security, we strongly support building upon this multi-tiered, risk-based system as the most effective and realistic means to safeguard the nation's freight transportation system,” Pfister said.

The House today is scheduled to consider H.R. 5441, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, sponsored by Representative Harold Rogers, R-Ky. During consideration of the bill, Representative Ed Markey, D-Mass., is expected to offer two amendments, one that would require 100 percent inspection of all U.S.-bound ocean cargo and another requiring the same for air cargo.

The House Homeland Security Committee rejected a similar Markey amendment on ocean cargo in April when he attempted to attach it to a larger port security bill. The full House then voted down a motion offered by Representative Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., that would have sent the bill back to committee because it lacked the Markey language. The House ultimately passed the port bill after approving an amendment that called for a pilot program to test screening and scanning technology.

U.S. retailers, who import merchandise from around the world, are among the nation's largest shippers of both air and sea cargo.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 23 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2005 sales of $4.4 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

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