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15/02/2005 | AAPA tells Senate more funds, better-focused security grant program needed

Martin Edwin Andersen

Executive Vice President Jean Godwin says Administration's new funding proposal runs counter to committee's intent

 

A Bush Administration plan to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security’s port security grant program, and replace it with a broad critical infrastructure funding category, has generated “great concerns” among America’s leading public port authorities, a senior port official told the Senate Commerce committee Tuesday.

The new approach, added Jean Godwin, executive vice president of the American Association of Port Authorities, “runs counter” to the intent of the Commerce Committee when it passed the U.S. Coast Guard’s reauthorization bill last year.

In remarks prepared for delivery before a committee hearing on the DHS Transportation Security Administration’s fiscal ’06 budget, Godwin urged the committee to “voice (its) opposition” to the new funding setup proposed in the Administration’s fiscal ’06 budget.

Godwin also urged it to support the AAPA’s request for $400 million in security funding for the next year, noting that the Coast Guard has estimated that the ports would have to spend $5.4 billion over the next decade just to comply with federal security mandates.

“There is still much to be done to continue our progress in securing America’s ports,” she said. “Adequate federal funds will help us avoid an infrastructure crisis in the future.”

Rather than getting rid of the current port security program, Godwin said, DHS should refocus it on the mandates set down under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, keeping it a separate funding program like the department’s firefighter grants, “while including a cross-check to (DHS’s) critical infrastructure plan.”

“The new Targeted Infrastructure Protection program would lump port security into a program with trains, trucks, busses and other public transit and ties these grants to the goal of protecting critical infrastructure based on relative risk, vulnerability and needs,” Godwin noted.

“This move would pit an under-funded border protection program against under-funded domestic transportation protection programs,” Godwin added, thus putting seaports—hard pressed for help to harden their facilities from terrorist attack—at a competitive disadvantage. .

“A separate line item is essential to ensure that ports continue to be a targeted priority in our country’s war against terrorism,” Godwin said.  “Cargo doesn’t vote and it is often not fully recognized for the value it provides to this country in state and federal infrastructure plans.”

Godwin noted that the official 9/11 Commission Report issued last August found that for terrorists “opportunities to do harm are as great, or greater” in the maritime sector as they are at the country’s airports.

“Ports are also the only industry within this new Targeted Infrastructure Protection program that has a statutory mandate to comply with—the MTSA,” she said, “and the only one for which there is a congressionally authorized grant program, which was also created by this committee.”

Created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the port security grant program gave out $565 million in grants in four rounds of funding to 1,200 projects, with an additional $150 million to be provided in fiscal ’05, Godwin noted.. 

“Overall, only one-sixth of all projects have been funded,” she said, “showing the great need for this program.”

After the port program was transferred within DHS from the Transportation Security Administration to the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness, Godwin noted, “the department agreed to keep the (it) as a separate entity and to keep TSA, Coast Guard, MARAD, and Customs involved in the management and selection of these competitive grants.”

“Last year, this Committee included a provision … to update the authorization of the (port security grant) program,” Godwin said, maintaining that “there would be a separate program specifically for port security to be based on the (Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.)”

“Ports are currently planning for a huge increase in trade in the future,” she noted.  “Industry analysts predict that within the next 15 years, that the approximately two billion tons of cargo that U.S. ports will handle will double.

“But ports are also challenged by the new security mandates of the MTSA and the need to continue to make improvements,” Godwin added.  “Therefore, ports are using current dollars to pay for security, rather than capital investments needed to handle the future growth of international trade.”

Martin Edwin Andersen can be reached at Mick_Andersen@portsecuritynews.com.

Copyright © 2005 Port Security News

Port Security News (Estados Unidos)

 


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