Sept. 12, 2007 -- Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Customs and Border Protection put in place a program to improve national security. The program, begun in November 2001, is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT. Results of a recent survey, conducted by the University of Virginia's Center for Survey Research and released on the eve of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, find that the program is working well.
C-TPAT, a public-private partnership, is intended to better secure the international supply chain to the United States. Products transported by companies that participate in the program and implement agreed-upon security measures receive a reduced number of inspections.
The survey, conducted at the request of Customs and Border Protection to assess the value, benefits and costs associated with membership in the program, was sent to all C-TPAT certified members and designed so that responses could be anonymous. More than 1,700 companies participated, with more than half being U.S. importers (including some of the nation’s largest retailers). Other sectors surveyed include carriers (such as trucking firms and sea carriers), service providers (such as brokers and consolidators) and manufacturers.
“The premise of this program was that companies would find it beneficial in the long run to take the many steps that C-TPAT requires,” said David Hartman, senior research director at the U.Va. Center for Survey Research. “The message from most companies is: ‘It’s well worth it to be part of this security program.’ That bodes well for the program’s continued growth and for our nation’s safety.”
Significant findings of U.Va.’s study revealed the following:
• The primary motivation for importers to join C-TPAT is to reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions due to a terrorist attack. Several company managers added patriotism and a sense of community responsibility as reasons for seeking C-TPAT certification, Hartman noted.
• Four out of every 10 members did not have a formal supply chain security plan prior to joining the program. “The survey demonstrates that C-TPAT moved thousands of companies to give closer scrutiny to the security of the goods they handle and look up the supply chain to ensure that their overseas suppliers have implemented sound security practices,” Hartman said.
• The vast majority (81.3 percent) of members indicated that their ability to assess and manage supply chain risk had been strengthened as a result of joining C-TPAT. “When risks are known and better managed, costs go down — and security increases,” Hartman explained.
• C-TPAT certification requires that companies meet an extensive checklist of verifiable conditions. Nevertheless, the survey found that the minimum security criteria were generally viewed as very easy or somewhat easy to implement across the various sectors.
• More than half (56.8 percent) of the members indicated that C-TPAT benefits either outweighed the costs or were about the same.
A Sept. 10 news release issued by Customs and Border Protection stated, “This study indicates that C-TPAT members remain firmly committed to the program, and it is clear they consider it valuable on several levels, such as reducing disruptions to their supply chains and having a direct link with [Customs and Border Protection]. We will carefully consider these findings in an effort to make the program even better.”
The survey was completed in early 2007 and the final report was posted on CBP’s Web site, www.cbp.gov, and U.Va.’s Web site www.virginia.edu/surveys, on Sept. 10.
REPORTERS: For further comment, contact U.Va. Prof. David E. Hartman, (434) 974-6296, or U.Va. Prof. Thomas Guterbock, CSR Director, at (434) 243-5223 (office), 434-760-0909 (cell).