With 2011 estimated to have been the worst year ever in terms of damage caused by natural and man-made disasters, the Obama Administration has launched an international study into supply chain security and contingency planning. The new initiative, known as the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, aims "to protect the welfare and interests of the American people and secure our nation's economic prosperity," according to President Barack Obama.

This new policy was officially introduced by Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As she explains, "We must continue to strengthen global supply chains to ensure that they operate effectively in time of crisis; recover quickly from disruptions; and facilitate international trade and travel." The DHS will work closely with other governments and private companies to build a more resilient global supply chain, Napolitano adds. In addition, the initiative will take aim at thwarting the proliferation of counterfeit and contaminated goods. The electronics industry alone, for instance, is said to be losing $7.5 billion a year due to counterfeits.

Coming on the heels of the President's State of the Union address, the supply chain security initiative announcement is long on strategy but sparse on details. No specific projects have yet been identified, nor has a budget for the program been announced.

What is known is that DHS, along with the State Department, will lead a six-month engagement period with the international community and industry stakeholders to solicit feedback and specific recommendations. This feedback will, it is hoped, result in a plan as to how to implement the strategy in as cost-effective and collaborative manner as possible. One year from now, a report is scheduled to be released summarizing the status of implementation efforts. Whether it is President Obama who announces the results in 2013, or a newly-elected Republican President, remains to be seen.

The National Security program has two main goals:

1. Promote the secure and efficient movement of goods.

The Obama Administration says this will be accomplished by:

  • Resolving threats early to expedite the flow of legitimate commerce.
  • Improving verification and detection capabilities to identify counterfeit or contaminated goods, and to prevent cargo from being compromised.
  • Enhancing security of infrastructure and conveyances by limiting access to cargo, infrastructure, conveyances and information to those with legitimate roles.
  • Maximizing the flow of legitimate trade by modernizing supply chain infrastructure and processes.

2. Foster a resilient supply chain.

This will be accomplished by:

  • Mitigating systemic vulnerability to supply chain disruptions by applying risk management principles to identify and protect key assets, infrastructure and support systems.
  • Promoting trade resumption policies and practices that provide for a coordinated restoration of the movement of goods following a disruption by applying national and global guidelines, standards, policies and programs.

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