The requirement to physically screen 100% of cargo applies only to passenger flights. The air cargo bombing plot last October, however, implicated “all cargo” flights as well as passenger flights. In the aftermath of that bombing plot, DHS began establishing a “risk-rating” system for air cargo similar to the type used in the maritime cargo environment.

  • All maritime cargo bound for the United States is “risk-rated” before it leaves the foreign port; the risk rating is a function of factors such as the sender, the recipient, the country of origin, and other variables. High-risk cargo is subjected to additional scrutiny. DHS intends to establish a similar risk rating-system for air cargo, but progress has been slow. DHS has been working with a variety of private sector stakeholders to determine what data is available at what time – the data is only useful if it can be provided to DHS well before a flight takes off. DHS has not yet found data elements that are both available in a timely manner and that produce useful risk ratings; further, even when DHS arrives at a satisfactory risk-rating formula based on available data, there will be difficult questions about what to do – and who should do it – with cargo that exceeds the risk threshold.
  • Notwithstanding the slow progress, generating a risk-rating system for “all cargo” flights remains a DHS priority for 2011.