Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The Department of Homeland Security is assessing a new radiation screening system to improve detection of nuclear or radiological material in cargo containers entering the United States. Shortcomings in the design and evaluation of tests conducted in 2008 reduce the Department's ability to compare the performance of the proposed system -- advanced spectroscopic portals -- to the handheld devices and portal monitors currently in use, according to the National Research Council. Further, the U.S. Congress has required cost-benefit analysis to assure that funds are spent on the new system only if the improvement in security justifies the additional investment. This report finds that the Department's analysis needs to examine more alternatives and better evaluate how they improve security before it can support such decision making.