GAO praises port security improvements, cites areas for improvement

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a study that said while port security has improved since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, challenges remain in ensuring safety.

The study found that the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to improve information sharing between key maritime agencies, but DHS faces challenges in maintaining that coordination. Specifically, the study cited multiple reports since 2011 in which the GAO found weak management of technology acquisitions.

The GAO study also praised DHS efforts since 2001 to improve security at U.S. ports, including providing escorts to high-risk ships and using funds from the federal government to defray the costs of implementing better port security. GAO faulted the DHS, however, for not implementing better enrollment and background check procedures at certain maritime facilities.

GAO also noted improvements made to the security of global supply chain and especially U.S.-bound cargo. The study noted, however, that DHS programs to improve that security were implemented with varying degrees of success and should be continually assessed.

The GAO study used work conducted from 2003-2013 with selected updates through May 2014 to make its assessments. DHS generally agreed with the GAO recommendations and has taken or is currently taking actions to address them.