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US Homeland Security issues call for blockchain solutions for supply chain, identity

homeland security customs border protection

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has solicited start-ups to propose blockchain solutions to five separate issues. The program, which is headed by the Science and Technology Directorate branch of the Department, is similar to a previous topic call from 2018 that also had a strong blockchain focus.

Three of the five objectives of the project focus on supply chains, specifically those of food, natural gas, and direct-to-customer e-commerce shipments and are being run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The other two are searching for a more secure alternative identifier to the social security number and effective solutions to problems that the Covid-19 pandemic has afflicted on Homeland Security.

The food project seeks to improve the safety and visibility of the supply chain. It aims to automate the often-arduous process of validating country-of-origin data as well as helping to streamline and simplify the process. As a U.S. Customs and Border Protection project, one of the purposes is to apply appropriate duties. Additionally, it is hoped that this will “reduce spoilage and waste” and “expedite inspection times”, making the whole process simpler and more streamlined.

Largely as a result of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the natural gas project aims to facilitate communication between governments and institutions and increase transparency. In particular, it targets creating connections between supply chain documents and import/export declarations, as well as simplifying in-bond processing. Previously, Customs and Border Protection ran a similar project for oil.

Fears surrounding a rise in “illicit and dangerous products” entering the U.S. via post has inspired the e-commerce supply chain strand of the scheme. Homeland Security seeks a platform that would allow it to connect all parties across the supply chain, thus increasing transparency. Through this, it hopes to identify illicit goods with greater ease, ensure that all sellers comply with regulations, and simplify the process by which goods enter the U.S.

Plans to change the social security number system are largely based on privacy concerns over the current status quo, especially in the wake of recent data breaches. Homeland Security is seeking an alternative to social security numbers that do not contain any information that could easily identify an individual and would be stored in a more secure manner.

Covid-19 has impacted Homeland Security to a great extent and it is looking for platforms to address some of the issues. Specifically, it seeks a system that could validate the eligibility of people conducting essential work and travel as well as one to effectively limit human contact, such as entry into their physical offices. It has specified that the latter plan should be tackled by helping to digitize physical documents and creating a system to validate the eligibility of those needing to enter their physical offices for purposes such as seeking citizenship or asylum. The aim is to safeguard privacy.

The deadline to submit a proposal is July 10th, 2020, and a Virtual Industry Day to discuss the projects is being held this morning.