Homeland Security Special Report: The cargo challenge

Government executives face major challenges as they try to mitigate homeland security threats

One of the things we’ve learned from the 2001 terrorist attacks is that we are in a conflict that tests the imagination. The terrorists that day demonstrated all too well their ability to conceive of and carry out horrific acts. On our side, government officials now have the mind-taxing job of trying to anticipate where and how the next attacks might occur — and doing what they can to prevent them.

Homeland security experts have been warning for years that a likely next target of terrorists is this country’s vast and vulnerable freight transportation system. The risks are many — from nuclear materials that could be smuggled via cargo containers that enter the country’s ports each day to railroad tanker cars filled with poisonous chemicals that sometimes sit unattended on tracks located in the downtown areas of hundreds of U.S. towns and cities.

Managing those risks will not be easy or inexpensive, which largely explains why relatively little headway has been made so far. As the stories on the following pages describe, government executives face major challenges as they try to mitigate homeland security threats. Those challenges are compounded because most of the country’s critical infrastructure — transportation networks, chemical plants and nuclear power facilities — is privately owned and operated by companies for whom homeland security is not their primary responsibility.

Security experts expect that information technology will figure prominently in helping federal officials meet the country’s homeland security challenges. The good news is that most of what is needed is available. The bad news is that picking the right technology is merely the first step.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

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