The Real Problem

THE REAL PROBLEM….The real problem with our ports has very little to do with who runs the stevedoring operations. Instead, it’s this:

The administration’s core problem at the ports, most experts agree, is how long it has taken for the federal government to set and enforce new security standards ? and to provide the technology to look inside millions of containers that flow through them.

Only 4 percent or 5 percent of those containers are inspected. There is virtually no standard for how containers are sealed, or for certifying the identities of thousands of drivers who enter and leave the ports to pick them up. If a nuclear weapon is put inside a container ? the real fear here ? “it will probably happen when some truck driver is paid off to take a long lunch, before he even gets near a terminal,” said [Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander who is an expert on port security at the Council on Foreign Relations].

….”I’m not worried about who is running the New York port,” a senior inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency said, insisting he could not be named because the agency’s work is considered confidential. “I’m worried about what arrives at the New York port.”

If the Dubai issue prompts Congress and the president ? and the public ? to start taking port security seriously, at least some good will have come out of this whole mess.

Also worth reading is this Washington Post story about the larger issue of foreign investment in the U.S. The basic problem is that because we’ve been running trade deficits for so long, countries in Asia and the Middle East have hundreds of billions of dollars that are currently parked primarily in financial instruments. At some point, they’re going to want to spend that money, and that means buying hard assets in the United States. We’ve been buying their oil and their electronic doodads on credit for a long time, and at some point that bill is going to come due. Port operations are just the tip of the iceberg.