Improving supply chain security is a topic getting more attention on Capitol Hill, but providers caution that it remains a complex and long-term task.

"The characteristics of an efficient, lean, high-velocity global supply chain – openness, ubiquity, diversity, agility – are also why it is an extremely attractive target for terrorists," said Vikram Verma, president & CEO of Sunnyvale, CA-based Savi Technology. "The physical infrastructure supporting global freight transportation is vast and poses a tremendous challenge to effectively monitor, safeguard and control from point of origin to destination."

Verma made his comments before the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine. He warned that the potential to use global shipping containers to transport weapons of mass destruction is real and should not be discounted.

"Candidly, I believe the global supply chain is the prime target and in its present state it is especially vulnerable to terrorist attack," he said. "This threat is systemic, meaning that simple solutions designed to prevent point attacks only or to provide 100% inspection at the U.S. will not work for the entire supply chain."

Verma said the industry must look at the problem holistically and put in place a security system that is capable of detecting, monitoring and preventing the threat at the point of origin before it hits U.S. ports.

He added that means effective intelligence, deterrence, detection and response capabilities are required to secure the global supply chain. However, they must be delivered through an integrated systems-based approach that spans policy, security procedures, business practices and technology.