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American Shipper

Two House bills boost port security grant funding

Two House bills boost port security grant funding

   Two U.S. lawmakers proposed bills to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to significantly increase funding to the nation’s port security grant program.

   The Bush administration’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2005 includes only $46 million for the port security grant program, a far cry from the Coast Guard’s $1.125-billion estimate to comply with the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

   Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles, proposed a bill (H.R. 3712, “U.S. Seaport Multiyear Security Enhancement Act”) to authorize $800 million for each of the fiscal years 2005 through 2009. The goal of the legislation, she said, is to develop a “reliable stream” of funding to the ports seeking grant money.

   She argued that the funding required to secure the nation’s seaports against terrorist attack is a drop in the bucket compared with the $11 billion already spent on airport security since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She said her bill is also in line with the Coast Guard’s port security funding estimates.

   Millender-McDonald received additional support for her bill from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who has also been outspoken on the need for increased port security grant funding.

   “It doesn’t make sense to me,” Nadler said at a June 9 press conference of the American Association of Port Authorities on Capitol Hill. “Why would you spend more than $100 billion in a year to topple a regime in Iraq, and not spend $4 billion to protect our own ports here in the U.S.?”

   Another bill (H.R.2193, “Port Security Improvement Act”) proposed by Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., to the same House committee would make a percentage of the estimated $16 billion in annual customs duties collected from seaports available to fund the port security grants program.

   Ose said in a written statement to the House committee that his bill “provides a portion of customs duties collected at ports to be dedicated for five years to port security enhancements” for a total amount of $3.3 billion.

   “Under the bill, ‘entitlement’ funding to duty-collecting ports and their facilities and vessels will flow through the Department of Homeland Security, which by law must review and approve each area maritime transportation security plan, facility security plan and vessel security plan,” Ose explained. “The distribution within a port would be based on the approved area maritime transportation security plan.”

   Both bills received strong backing from the AAPA and the Port Security Council of America.

   AAPA representative Noel K. Cunningham, director of operations and emergency management at the Port of Los Angeles, said to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday that “these bills, along with adequate appropriations levels, would create adequate funding for port security projects.”

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