Number Crunching

To head off a “terrorist” attack, Congress last year set a 2012 deadline for all U.S.-bound cargo to be scanned at foreign ports. They called the program the Secure Freight Initiative test (SFI), but after conducting a pilot program at three sites over a six-month period at a cost of $ 60 million, administration officials now admit that it would be too costly, too time-consuming, and besides, the 2012 deadline could never be met.

Let’s see now … $ 60 million for three ports over a six-month period would translate into more than $ 28 billion annually if this hallucination ever became a reality. The calculation is easy – if it costs $ 60 million for three ports for six months, it would cost $ 120 million for these three ports annually – and because there are more than 700 overseas ports siphoning away our money, we’d be another $ 28 billion in the hole. Annually.

Here’s another way to look at it. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Jayson Ahern said it would cost $ 8 million per truck lane just to deploy the equipment needed for SFI testing in overseas ports. Many terminals have 10 or more lanes, according to reports, but just using 10 truck lanes as an average in those 700 overseas ports, 7,000 lanes at $ 8 million per lane comes to twice the $ 28 billion mentioned above. So $ 56 billion looks like the startup cost for SFI.

While the pros and cons of this fiasco were being debated over the past few weeks, one issue was not debatable. One way or another the U.S. taxpayer would be stuck for the cost, because all expenses are set up to trickle down to the very end of the supply chain.

But if taxpayers were allowed a say in “security” matters – assuming taxpayers would ever be allowed to know what was going on – they would insist upon getting their money’s worth. For instance, the average citizen doesn’t care about national “security” because job “security” is the main concern. No jobs means no buying power. No buying power means deprivation.

As long as they are required to pick up the tab, however, intelligent citizens – and that excludes bureaucrats – would devise a program that would kill two birds with one stone. With no hesitation they would point to the $ 2.8 billion being spent on the ten useless and unprofitable T-AKE cargo-type vessels being built for the U.S. Navy, and they’d wonder why simpler container ships couldn’t be built at the same shipyard. For that same $ 2.8 billion our shipbuilders could deliver about 50 moderate -sized, profit-generating container ships. These vessels, containing our patented onboard storage, retrieval and inspection system, and crewed by Navy and Coast Guard personnel, would provide all the “security” we needed – national “security” as well as job “security”.

That $ 2.8 billion isn’t all that would be available, however. “Defense-related” spending comes to $ 1.1 trillion annually – an expenditure that future historians will consider a national disgrace. If this amount of funding had been properly and humanely spent, our financial turmoil would be non-existent. We’d be gainfully employed, we’d have buying power, and we never would have forfeited our international standing as the world’s leader – in every category.