Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at a Supply Chain Roundtable, with DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans Robert Silvers, in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2023.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas
You know, we in the Department of Homeland Security view the supply chain issues, of which all of you are far more familiar, as not just an issue of economic security, but a broader issue of Homeland Security. That it addresses the economic prosperity of our country, but adverse impacts to the supply chain can impact people's health, as of course we saw it most acutely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other aspects of our country's well-being. And that could be as something as important and physical as the critical infrastructure at our ports and who owns them, who operates them, and how secure they are for us.
And our model is to really execute our work and our security imperatives in a public private partnership.
The vast majority of our country's critical infrastructure rests in the hands of the private sector, and we view you as the reason why we serve – to make sure that your businesses and your well-being prosper and that prosperity cascades throughout. And in light of the challenges that our supply chain have suffered and that we saw so prominently during the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to really intensify our focus on supply chain security.
And we asked our Homeland Security Advisory Council to take a look at the issue and they recommended that we form a Supply Chain Resilience Center where we really have individuals from across the enterprise, working with the private sector, focus exclusively on this critical mission set.
And the first area on which we are going to focus is indeed port security and Rob will speak to the particulars about that. But really what, you know, in the service of a true public private partnership, what we want also is of course to hear from you. You know what – in the context of supply chain security, while our first chapter will be on the focus of port security, assessing the risks, really understanding them, and developing a strategy to really address those risks – where else should we be looking? In what other aspects of the supply chain should we be focused upon?
We, as I hope all of you know, we cover a lot of different industries from CBP to TSA, to Coast Guard, to CISA, and many more. And so, our wingspan is broad and we want to hear from you as to what we should be focused upon. We want to make these decisions unilaterally, but more in partnership with you.
And so, we so very much appreciate all of you being here taking time to have this conversation with us. I'll turn it over to Rob to get into some of the particulars, and then we'll have a conversation. Thanks again. Really appreciate it.
Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans Robert Silvers
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
On the subject of ports, I don't need to explain the criticality of port structure to a group like this assembled today.
One initial area of focus for us is going to be on cranes and other types of hardware equipment that may be subject to adverse foreign influence or control. I know that's a subject that has been thrown out as a problem set a lot, and what we're really committed to now that the Secretary has formed a Supply Chain Resilience Center, is getting very brass tacks and practical on how are we going to address this in a way that is responsible, commercially practical, and it works for port operators and the Americans that rely on ports to function every day.
And one of the first things that we've been doing in the center is conducting a very rigorous market analysis to make sure we understand what the scope of the challenge is, and what are the potential solutions available, and we will be circulating that soon. It's almost finalized, but to gives you some topline initial findings from our study, to help inform the thinking. We project that U.S. ports and when I say "we," by the way, credit to AAPA. I see Karen and Paul here, they did a study, that we project that U.S. ports will need about 53 new ship-to-shore cranes over the next 10 years. And then there's obviously the stock of existing cranes that are out there. These are big capital investments, and the question really becomes what are the sources of potential supply?
There are producers in Japan, Finland, Switzerland, other countries, but the questions are: can they meet all the demand that there really is? And that’s something we're going to be engaging with those producers on. Understanding that and understanding from your community, what are the incentives that would be helpful?
We know that sometimes other cranes are more expensive to procure, 20-30% more. What would be helpful to drive adoption, understanding that these are big capital investments? There's supply challenges and there's a lot of the infrastructure already in place. What are the shorter- and medium-term mitigations that can be available to manage risk? We’ve seen for some ports really excellent and responsible security management programs around equipment, and we want to bring everyone together, figure out what are the best practices that are practical and implementable and share them around so that they can be available and encourage in the uptake by all.
And then obviously, there's a number of other threat vectors at ports. You talk about cybersecurity, you talk about physical security, insider threat, nation-state espionage risks and the like. And we want to get the transportation links that go in and out of ports and the kinds of either intentional disruptions or just workforce issues or otherwise that can cause challenges.
We do our job here, what the Secretary has charged us with doing, is to cut points of friction, streamline commerce, apply security where it's needed, and find ways to do that shoulder to shoulder with industry. And that's what we're going to be doing in the initial ports project. But in every other line of effort that the center drives as well.
And we have a lot of tools. We can streamline trade and customs processes. We can develop best security practices: cyber, physical. We can bring in – we can be a convener and a voice to bring in – other U.S. government agencies that have tools, foreign governments that can be part of it from allied and partner countries that can be useful in the effort as well.
So, we are ready to use our platform and relationships to help get at these problems because as the Secretary said, this is really a defining challenge – supply chain resilience – of the century to come.