International trade and commerce has driven the development of nations and provided a means for economic growth since ancient times. While the daily movement of people and millions of tons of cargo among nations is taken for granted today, it doesn’t take much to disrupt that movement. Consequently, given the increasingly complex nature of a global supply chain, disruptions such as natural hazards, accidents, and even terrorist attacks offer the potential to create a global ripple effect.
You may have seen Janet Napolitano address that concern last week. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), officially announced an initiative, known as the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security. The Strategy aims, in the words of President Barack Obama, “to protect the welfare and interests of the American people and secure our nation’s economic prosperity.”
What’s interesting is that the Strategy has two specific goals. The first is to promote the timely and efficient flow of legitimate commerce while protecting and securing the supply chain from exploitation, and reducing its vulnerability to disruption. To this end, Napolitano says DHS will work to understand and resolve threats early in the process, and strengthen the security of physical infrastructure, conveyances, and information assets while also working to maximize trade by modernizing supply chain infrastructure and processes.
The second goal is to foster a resilient global supply chain that is prepared for, and can withstand, evolving threats and hazards—and be able to recover rapidly from disruptions. According to Napolitano, DHS will prioritize efforts to mitigate systemic vulnerabilities and refine plans to reconstitute the flow of commerce after disruptions.
As Napolitano wrote on blogs.reuters, there are three keys to executing the strategy. First, DHS will maximize resources and expertise from across the U.S. government to find smarter and more cost-effective ways to address security threats. This includes developing common standards, streamlining processes, and enhancing information sharing.
Next, DHS will strive to foster what Napolitano calls “an all-of-nation” approach to leverage the critical roles played by domestic governmental and private-sector partners. Since the supply chain includes manufacturing, assembly, consolidation, packaging, shipping, and warehousing, as well as supporting communications infrastructure and systems, all will play critical roles in its protection, she says.
Finally, since protecting the global supply chain is inherently an international challenge, it will take an international effort to protect that global supply chain. Napolitano says it will be vital to continue to think globally, enhancing coordination with the international community and international stakeholders who have key supply chain roles and responsibilities. DHS will seek to develop and implement global standards, strengthen detection, interdiction, and information-sharing capabilities, and promote end-to-end supply chain security efforts with the international community, she says.
I’m intrigued by the strategy. In recent years, advances in communications technology and production cost reductions have certainly contributed to allow global market development and new economic opportunity. Obviously, the global supply chain system that supports this trade is essential to not just the U.S.’ economy, but to a growing number of countries’ economies, and therefore, is indeed, a critical global asset. How the strategy will be received by other countries remains to be seen. But in my opinion, it’s a good strategy and I look forward to learning more about it.
What are your thoughts on the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security?