Increase in Seaport Security Funding is Proposed

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the organization representing public ports throughout the Western Hemisphere, lauded Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for introducing a bill in the U.S. Senate that includes revisions and clarifications to the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant program. “AAPA praises the senatorial leadership of Susan Collins, who chairs the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Washington State’s Patty Murray, who today have introduced the ‘GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act,’” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO. “Both senators have a long and distinguished history of leadership in protecting our seaports against terrorism and this bipartisan bill shows their continued commitment to this critical area of our national security.” Nagle added that while there are DHS programs that address cargo and port security, the “GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act” appears to clearly outline Congress’ thoughts on these important programs and encourages them to go to the next level. He noted that AAPA is especially supportive of the portions of the bill that direct $400 million a year in appropriations from Customs duties for the federal Port Security Grant program, clarify who can apply for funding, and provide allowances for at least limited multi-year funding for port security grants. “We’ve advocated for these changes ever since the Port Security Grant program was introduced after 9/11,” said Mr. Nagle. “The program has always been woefully underfunded, paying less than one-fifth of what ports have requested for reimbursements of eligible facility security investments. Just look at what airports have received since 9/11 in federal security assistance, and seaports—which handle 99 percent of our country’s overseas freight volumes—appear to be a poor stepchild in comparison. Dedicating a small portion of the Customs revenues already being collected on maritime commerce is an appropriate funding source.” Like the existing Port Security Grant program, the Collins/Murray bill would maintain a risk-based approach in determining the grants. Unlike the existing program, however, the Collins/Murray bill ensures that any entity subject to an area maritime transportation security plan could compete for funding. AAPA strongly endorses this approach since the DHS limited eligibility to only 66 seaports in the latest round of Port Security Grant program funding. AAPA also supports the bill’s multi-year funding of port security grants. This would ensure that grantees receive full reimbursements for security projects that have more than one part or phase, especially those that take more than a year to complete. In the Collins/Murray bill, multiple project phases could be approved at one time. In the area of cargo security, the bill authorizes and strengthens many on-going cargo security programs, such as Operation Safe Commerce, the Container Security Initiatives and C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism). Funding for this bill would come from Customs duties, which AAPA strongly supports.
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