The Securing America’s Ports Act: NII Technology

On February 10, 2020, the Securing America’s Ports Act (H.R. 5273) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support. Introduced last year by Representative Dan Crenshaw and Representative Torres-Small, the bill would drastically expand the usage of non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment at U.S. ports of entry. If enacted, the bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a plan to implement NII systems at ports of entry and raise scanning rates for vehicles entering the United States to 100 percent. The legislation defines a large-scale NII system as “a technology, including x-ray and gamma ray imaging systems, capable of producing an image of the contents of a commercial or passenger vehicle in one pass of such vehicle.”

In FY 2019, almost all the narcotics seized by CBP occurred by scanning approximately 15 percent of commercial cargo and one percent of vehicles arriving at land ports of entry on the Southwest border. Increasing the amount of scanning would ensure great strides in the detection of narcotics. Additionally, it would lead to a more efficient process, reducing the time and money required by the agency to complete inspections. According to CBP, the average inspection time for NII examination of a cargo takes about 8 minutes, compared to the average 120 minutes spent on a physical inspection.

The majority of seizures occur at ports of entry. In fact, only about 15% of seizures of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl being seized between ports of entry. This statistic demonstrates the need for increased scanning at ports of entry. The legislation aims to ensure that all ports, regardless of size, are properly equipped to combat the entry of illicit goods.

Last year, Congress approved $570 million for NII technological upgrades, which CBP expects will help increase truck inspection rates to 72% and passenger vehicle inspection rates to 40% at the larger ports of entry by 2024. To assist U.S. CBP Officers in interdicting contraband at ports of entry, CBP will need innovative and customizable new equipment to outfit both large and small ports.

If the Securing America’s Ports Act is enacted, the Secretary of Homeland Security will be required to submit a plan to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate within 180 days. The plan will include:

  • An inventory of all large-scale NII systems and similar technology at each port of entry, and information about each of those systems including:
    • The scanning method
    • The location that specifies whether the technology is in use in pre-primary, primary, or secondary inspection areas
    • The percentage of vehicles scanned by the system
    • Seizure data
  • Benchmarks for achieving progress toward the goal of 100 percent scanning of commercial and passenger vehicles entering the U.S. at land ports of entry
  • The estimated cost of implementing the plan
  • Projected impacts of the project on the total number of commercial and passenger vehicles entering at land ports of entry
  • Projected impacts of the project on border security operations, including staffing of CBP officers
  • Research and development to enhance large-scale NII inspection systems

One year following the submission of the plan, the Secretary of Homeland Security will provide a report on progress implementing the plan and will continue to do so annually.

CT Strategies looks forward to continuing to work with CBP and the NII technology community to increase the level of effective scanning at ports of entry, while simultaneously increasing efficient, secure flows of legitimate trade and travel.