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Global Supply Chain Security Needs Improvement

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By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued national security guidelines for global supply chain security. DHS’s purpose is to secure the supply chain to withstand attacks from different threats and hazards as well as from foreign and domestic hackers. The guidelines offer prudent measures to guard against individuals, agents or governments seeking to harm the United States.

Numerous Government Agencies and Businesses to Protect

There is real cause for concern. International trade is conducted by domestic companies and the U.S. government. Government agencies and organizations are widely spread out across the U.S.

Every state and local government needs its service and supply requirements to function effectively. These organizations operate according to state and federal guidelines; however, each of these entities operates independently.

Diversity of Supply Chains Make Universal Protection Difficult

With the large volume of state and local government processes and requirements, it’s certainly understandable that each of these organizations needs to protect its supply chain. One of the big problems is that these entities developed and created their own supply chains that may or may not connect with other supply chains.

The DHS must protect all of these organizations, but there is no one standard system or standard process for protection. As a result, it is hard to protect each organization with a standard set of policies and procedures.

Supply Chain Protection Policies Suffer from Lack of Funding

Although DHS proposed policies to ensure a standard level of protection, many different organizations must implement these policies to make supply chains more secure and resilient to attack. Of course, these policies are difficult to police and maintain because some government and private organizations do not have enough funds to support supply chain system defense and protection.

More Diligence Necessary in Supply Chain Security Inspections

Organizations also need to be more diligent about inspections of important components that go into larger supply chain systems. While this type of security and inspection might seem a little extreme, the extra diligence is worthwhile.

Consider the recent scandal involving the Volkswagen emissions cheat device. This device falsified emissions testing levels and manufacturers installed it on millions of vehicles worldwide without consumers or regulators knowing about it.

Similarly, enemies of the U.S. could use a hidden and undetected device to take control of a supply chain system and disrupt the flow of goods and services. Unknown agents have already caused a massive Internet outage by hacking into computer systems and taking remote control of people’s unsecured cameras.

Vigilance Necessary to Protect Supply Chain System Security

Although the concept of a terrorist takeover of supply chain systems may seem like conspiracy theory mumblings, the idea is not that far-fetched. Remember the problems caused when Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 cell phones began bursting into flames? It’s clear that there was something wrong not only with the battery, but also with the phone. A major terrorist act could occur if someone was able to cause massive cell phone battery malfunctions on command.

Similarly, most cell phones have an FM radio installed within them that remains unused. An FM radio is far from a dangerous device, but it shows that hidden components exist in our everyday devices without public knowledge.

While supply chain attack situations are now more speculative than actual, the threat is real. Our proof is the fact that the government is developing a supply chain security strategy to counter such attack scenarios.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is the program director for the Reverse Logistics Management department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has more than 25 years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. Dr. Gordon earned his Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA.

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