Biological threats and hazards can significantly impact our nation’s health, critical infrastructure, and the economy, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel work diligently to safeguard and manage U.S. air, land, and maritime borders to screen for evolving agricultural and other threats that may cross our borders on a daily basis. To ensure that the CBP’s training curriculum is addressing the most up-to-date biothreats, theCross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS)Center of Excellence is performing a quick-turnaround project involving a curriculum review, gap analysis and needs assessment of the CBP’s Office of Training and Development’s (OTD) existing Agriculture Specialist training programs regarding biological threats to human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products. The gap analysis will identify curriculum deficiencies in the subject matter areas complementary to the CBTS mission, upon which new curricula will be based and developed. This project will provide a baseline to CBP’s OTD of what currently exists so that stakeholder and end-user new training requests can be easily decided and developed into new project proposals/work plans for future CBTS development. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve detection, interdiction, and deterrence of insect pests and vectors of livestock, plant pathogens, and fruit and vegetables that might threaten our country’s health and econony.
The nearly 30,000 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers and Agriculture Specialists require a solid understanding of infectious animal and plant pathogenic diseases and select agents, their modes of transmission and spreading, relationships and risks of entry with food, wildlife, humans and agriculture via trade and travel pathways. Furthermore, this same audience must comprehend technical language used in the biological and veterinary sciences to enhance their ability to resolve passenger declarations during the screening process. To address this concern, theCross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS)Center of Excellence has partnered with AgriLife Research at Texas A&M Universityto develop two new courses to train DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers, Agriculture Specialists and other CBP field personnel to effectively query and triage incoming travelers, cargo, and shipments at our borders and ports of entry and address epidemiological considerations. The first training product built under this project will be a thirty (30) minute training module for all frontline CBP field personnel who may require and benefit from biological threat awareness, with focus on high-consequence animal and plant pests and diseases and overview of their epidemiology. The goal of this curriculum is to provide a better understanding of biological threats and their impact to the U.S. agriculture industry and economy, and to emphasize high vigilance of CBP and other professionals in recognizing threats and mitigating risks either at the ports of entry or other environments. A more in-depth four (4) hour training course will also be developed for select/specialized CBP Office of Field Operations Officers and Agriculture Specialists who may require and benefit from higher understanding of animal and plant disease epidemiology.
Currently, disease diagnosis depends upon items such as clinical presentation (e.g., fever, cough), which can be coupled with laboratory work (e.g., swab test for COVID19, strep throat culture). In contrast, this project focuses on the development of a hand-held, portable, device that can identify infections in people before they show symptoms, as well as differentiate between viral and bacterial infections in less than one hour. The device is a battery-powered and fully integrated system that could provide rapid identification of infected and infectious individuals. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence project with Predigenand Biomemewill develop a point-of-care diagnostic device in a CLIA-waivable form for the detection of pre-symptomatic viral infection (“Pan-Viral signature”), and differentiation of bacterial from viral infection by developing and validating the bacterial/viral host gene expression test. This test will allow for discrimination of presymptomatic patients with viral or bacterial infection from alternative diagnoses. A screening method to detect individuals with viral and/or bacterial infections and triage them appropriately would help to curb the spread of infectious diseases, particularly if that screening was successful prior to the presentation of clinical symptoms or in asymptomatic people. In such an instance, appropriate public health measures could be put in place to prevent/limit disease spread, including further testing and treatment when possible. The ruggedized platform has received an Emergency Use Authorization during the course of this project from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Transnational criminal organizations are capitalizing on the difficulty and expense of detecting containerized contraband once in transit, due to huge increases in the volume of ‘legal’ containers shipped worldwide and pressure to keep commerce moving. In order to address this challenge, this research will develop a low cost, high throughput method for detection dogs to examine air samples in shipping containers for contraband, without breaking customs seals. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence project with the Center for Conservation Biology and Conservation Canines Program at the University of Washingtonwill develop an apparatus that draws air from the outside vents at the top of each shipping container, through a canister containing an inexpensive odor-collection material that captures the contraband scent. The sealed sample canisters are then taken to a nearby site and presented in sequence to detection dogs trained to alert to specific contraband scents. The research will test the accuracy and sensitivity of the methods, including true positive and false positive detections rates, how the threshold of detection varies with type and strength of the contraband odor, in the presence of various nontarget odors likely to be comingled with the contraband in the same container. Finally, the research will optimize methods for transferring this technology to existing canine programs worldwide, allowing for searching containers for contraband with minimal disruption to port operations.
Application of blockchain technologies is a powerful means to increase visibility and enhance data capture from critical transactional nodes within a supply chain and its associated document flows. These technologies are facilitating a global revolution for establishment of digital identity and trust. This research project, with the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain DefenseCenter of Excellence in partnership with the Texas A&M University Department of Computer Science,will create a realistic model of global tuna supply chain components, from fishing vessels through entry into the U.S., in a computational testbed environment. The blockchain testbedwill be built to U.S. government-mandated standards, which presents an opportunity for tuna, as well as for other industries, to test system design and conduct research in an environment free of the burden or liabilities that come with direct contact or linkage to government systems. The project is focused on the tuna supply chain harvest-to-market model, a $42B global enterprise that encompasses multiple global physical and paper transactions. The testbed will allow for development of apps and use of distributed ledger technologies to illustrate how blockchain may advance the current state of the art in data capture and relay of product/document/financial exchanges through a complex supply chain to import, and into U.S. government systems. Successful implementation will secure digital tracking of country of origin, quota limits, accurate tariff classifications, and compliance with government regulations, combined with the benefits of promoting environmentally sensitive harvest, sustainability, and ensuring legal labor. Successful program implementation will yield a testbed environment for additional industries to apply these technologies to other systems requiring immutable capture of transactions, transaction patterns, and authenticity verification in complex supply chains.
During 2019, more than six million trucks crossed from Mexico into the United States through land border crossings, handling goods that are important inputs to U.S. manufacturing and for personal consumption. The truck border crossing process is complicated, involving multiple stakeholders and sometimes it creates delays that affect the U.S. industry. Current available border wait time information, from a radio frequency identification (RFID)-based system developed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI)is useful for planning and operations, and could be used to analyze the economic impact of truck border crossing delays and disruptions to the U.S. economy. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence has partnered with TTIto provide a practical and simple but powerful tool to help performing economic impact analyses on border crossing changes. This tool will be scalable in terms of geography and performance measures. The approach consists of developing and comparing baseline crossing and alternative scenarios. These comparisons will look at estimating changes in travel costs and savings. These travel cost impacts will then be applied to regional factors that proportionally expands or translates the effect to produce labor, wage, and business production economic outputs. The tool will incorporate data from IMPLAN Pro, an economic impact assessment model that uses the standard input-out (IO) modeling technique. The economic impact assessment tool will help DHS and Customs and Border Protection measure and quantify the economic impacts that regular delays or unexpected events cause when disrupting the regular operations of the border crossing process. This will also help in identifying and prioritize actions to prevent or dampen undesired economic impacts.
Given the complex and disruptive nature of COVID-19, this project from the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence in partnership with the Texas A&M University College of Engineering will generate a risk-guided platform for the U.S. supply chain infrastructure, with a focus on food and agriculture supply chains.It will provide access to datasets, predictive models and experts’ opinions and will be useful in generating evidence-based support on the causes and effects of COVID-19 on U.S. trade supply chains. The research team will focus on the identification and characterization of trade supply chain infrastructure systems moving goods across all U.S. points of entry via land, air and seaports, from origin to destination, in and out of the U.S. The identification and characterization of evidence depicting the dynamics of infrastructure interactions of U.S. domestic and international trade supply chains, from procurement, manufacturing, warehousing, to transportation processes, will serve as the basis for the platform. The risk framework will lead to the formulation of a comprehensive risk assessment model, mapping numerous participating processes needed to simulate ‘prognosis and diagnosis scenarios’ of social, economic and environmental impacts. This will require collection of evidence on the components that will define risk baselines: a) COVID-19 as the central bio-threat of interest and all other natural and anthropogenic converging threats that may occur concurrently (e.g. weather, geopolitics, seasonal infectious diseases); b) the state of vulnerability or robustness of all systems put in place to withstand the potential simultaneous effects of these threats (e.g. trade supply chain infrastructure systems); c) the social, economic and environmental assets exposed to them (e.g. people, economy, and the environment). The value proposition of this project lies in the risk mitigating strategies based on resiliency and sustainability that will be illuminated.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdown of economic activity, first in China, then in the U.S. has drawn stark attention to the consequences of long supply chains. For example, disruptions in the production/shipments of protective masks from China and of pharmaceutical feedstocks from India underscored how disruptions can transmit shocks in one nation to firms and consumers in the U.S. This project will examine the consequences of longer supply chains and identify possible risk-reducing strategies. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense Center (CBTS) and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) will collaborate to examine the potential risks associated with global supply chains on which U.S. economy depends. The collaborations will include meetings with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leaders and their operational partners to identify areas of concern and continue with the selection of researchers funded through a joint NBER and CBTS competition. The selected projects will help to identify key nodes in the global production network that are sources of vulnerability for essential goods and services and look along the horizon to identify supply chains that place the nation’s economic health at risk. This project will generate new research findings and build a community of economic researchers working on supply chain issues. The results will inform the design of policies to ameliorate risks, such as public or private incentives for establishing multiple sources for production-critical materials, regulatory requirements for the maintenance of private inventories designed to reduce the risk of stock-out or supply interruption, or public stockpiles of essential goods.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated impacts on global economic activity have unprecedented implications for markets for agricultural commodities and their products, including food. With the changes in global consumer incomes, distribution networks, and the very nature of how people live, at least temporarily, agricultural and food systems have been placed under a new and extreme stress that might have no historical analog. The goal of this project, led by University of Missouri – Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, is to relate unprecedented disruptions of the major U.S. commodity markets to national security issues through an analysis of their impact on agricultural commodity markets and related goods. The research utilizes economic models that represent fundamental supply and demand behaviors, and capture market dynamics such as short-run stock adjustments and biological supply constraints, and that incorporate existing domestic agricultural policies that influence market conditions. The study will generate projections of key indicators that can be readily used to inform decision makers in public and private sectors. The project’s findings will capture the impacts of key pandemic shocks and their implications across a wide range of agricultural markets over a ten-year period. These results will provide a clearer picture of the paths commodity markets can be expected to take as they recover from the pandemic. This analysis can be used to inform possible policy decisions in response to current events and it will provide valuable insights into the possible costs and consequences of future market disruptions.
COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions have highlighted the need to develop a global supply chain threat and risk analysis capability, particularly for inputs related to pre-harvest livestock and crop production. On their own, neither industry, academia, nor the government has sufficient access to the information and expertise required to provide comprehensive early warning and risk assessment on the impact of biological threats to global supply chains critical to the U.S. This Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence project in partnership with Anneal Initiative, Inc., will provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with ongoing analytical reports and needs assessments that can be used in an Integrated Global Supply Chain Threat and Risk Analysis operation. The goal is to deliver enhanced risk assessments of threats to pre-harvest livestock and crop supply chains through persistent and dedicated collaboration between government, industry, and academia. Given that many current supply chain disruptions are centered around difficulties with manufacturing in and distribution from China, this project while examining many global supply chains with concentrate on developments in China. Knowing more about the reliance of U.S. livestock and crop producers on Chinese manufacturing will help identify critical vulnerabilities. This project will leverage industry and academic expertise to help develop a greater federal government understanding of food and agriculture supply chain risk and identify critically needed government support for threat analysis. Combining expertise from industry and academia with the threat collection capabilities of the federal government will advance early warning and enhance risk assessments for potential pandemics and related impacts to national agriculture supply chains.
COVID-19 knows no borders, and its effects on people and the economy have taken a resounding toll on both sides of the U.S.– Mexico border. The people of the workforce and their families have been affected and subject to the local and regional resources and policies of their communities, and these effects have echoed into factories and industries, changes for migrant workers, and amplified to effects on trade and supply chains. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense(CBTS) Center of Excellence in partnership with the Texas A&M University College of Engineering, will integrate a binational task force comprised of representatives from academia, industry and government, from the U.S. and Mexico to address the public health impacts of the COVID19 pandemic on U.S. – Mexico trade. It is critical to support health supply chain systems for both infrastructure and workforce, and to do it accounting for the inherent cultural regional differences, and considering the current and emerging regional social, economic and environmental Risks. The task force will be led by CBTS-Texas A&M University, and has secured three strategic Mexican partners in addition to key US representation: The National Association of Governors (Consejo Nacional de Gobernadores, CONAGO), the Business Advisory Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, CCE), and the National COVID19 Scientific Advisory Board. Collaborations stemming from the task force will generate near real-time analytics following a Risk systems approach through a data-lake platform: a) to facilitate the identification, characterization and modeling of participating processes posing an existing or potential threat to the health supply chain systems (e.g. COVID19, seasonal infectious diseases, geopolitics, climate and weather); b) to facilitate the assessment of the current state of vulnerability of the health supply chain systems (e.g. physical and information systems for procurement, manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation of health supplies and services); and c) to facilitate the assessment of social, economic and environmental impacts that may be produced by a likely combination of threats and states of vulnerability of the health supply chain systems (e.g. fatalities, disabilities, hospitalizations, social sentiment, migration, crime, GDP, unemployment, poverty, pollution, etc.).
Historically, respiratory pathogens have posed the greatest threat to the nation’s workforce and this is particularly true for our first responders, healthcare workers, and national security personnel such as Uniformed Service members, Border Patrol Agents and Transportation Security officers who, by nature of their occupations, often are asked to work in close proximity to individuals who may have communicable diseases or environments that unknowingly may contain harmful pathogens. As we have learned through the COVID-19 pandemic, critical workforce necessary to keep the nation running also include service transportation, truckers, service industry, and other frontline workers such as grocery personnel. The mission of this workshop, held with the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS) Center of Excellence in partnership with the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, is to bring together government and non-government experts and thoughtful leaders to discuss border health threats and supply chain defense topics identified by officials within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) office and identify researchable topics that will address the most pressing of the CWMD-identified gaps. Broadly, these topics include limited infectious disease surveillance along the border, challenges associated with response to cross-border disease events, related medical and pharmaceutical supply chain topics, joint-training needs to promote improved response to pandemics or disease pressures at the border, and the more limited ability to effectively communicate across our border. The workshop findings are essential to the development of Requests for Proposals that will focus on DHS relevant mission concerns related to border health security.