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American Shipper

Rep. LoBiondo wants port security grant program maintained

Rep. LoBiondo wants port security grant program maintained

   Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, vowed to do his best to preserve the country’s seaport security grant program.

   President Bush’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget request proposes to consolidate several security grant programs into a single fund. Under the proposal, $600 million will be included in the so-called “Transportation Infrastructure Protection” program.

   The port security grant program was established under the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act. More than $735 million has been appropriated for the program during the past four years.

   American Association of Port Authorities maintained during a Feb. 8 press conference that the port security grant program should not have to compete with public transit sector. LoBiondo is similarly worried about the impact that the proposed consolidated grant program would have port security initiatives.

   “I am concerned that such a program would pay little attention to the maritime needs,” LoBiondo said. “I hope we can protect funding for the port security grant program at no less than the fiscal year 2005 appropriated level of $150 million.”

   LoBiondo, however, praised President Bush’s proposed budget increases for the Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission. The bill authorizes $8.1 billion for the Coast Guard and $20.5 million for the FMC in fiscal 2006.

   LoBiondo added that it’s important for the Coast Guard to complete its fleet renewal program, known as the “Deepwater,” on schedule. President Bush’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget requests a $242 million increase for the Deepwater program.

   “Completing Deepwater in less than 20 years is critically important if the Coast Guard is expected to successfully carry out its missions,” he said. The Coast Guards vessels “are suffering operational failures at an alarming rate and putting the lives of their crews and the public they serve in grave danger.”