Port Security Conference

June 4, 2003

Port security funds grab questioned
An effort to transfer port security funding to other programs was questioned during a Congressional hearing yesterday by the Chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and the security directors of two of the America's largest ports.

The Congressional oversight hearing was on the implementation of the Maritime Transportation and Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) and the status of the numerous security provisions required under the act. The security programs are being administered by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and other federal agencies associated with homeland security.

"The MTSA is intended to substantially enhance port security and seeks better integration between federal, state, local and private law enforcement to oversee the security of our international borders at our seaports," said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), the Chairman of the Subcommittee. "It also includes new requirements for security assessments, plans and specific security measures for ports, vessels and facilities.

"However, I have read with great concern that the TSA has made a request to the Senate Appropriators to cover cost overruns in aviation security by transferring $105 million that Congress dedicated for port security grants and $28 million in funds for cargo security programs in Operation Safe Commerce.

"This committee needs assurance that current money available for Port Security Assessments will remain intact and that they will not be diverted to other area within the dept of Homeland Security." LoBiondo said.

Admiral Thomas Collins, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said that the Coast Guard's strategic approach to maritime security "places a premium on identifying and intercepting threats well before they reach U.S. shores by (1) conducting layered, multi-agency, maritime security operations; (2) by strengthening the port security posture of our strategic economic and military ports; and (3) by building on current international cooperative security efforts."

"These key elements form the basis of the Coast Guard's Maritime Homeland Security Strategy," said Collins, "closely aligning with the President’s National Strategy for Homeland Security unveiled last summer. It is a sound strategy that depends primarily on preventing future attacks by sharing information, securing our borders, protecting vital infrastructure, partnering with others at home and abroad, and preparing to respond quickly if necessary."

"Terrorist activities and threats, coupled with our own acknowledged vulnerabilities, prompted unprecedented multi-lateral security activities over the past year," he noted. "The United States working in concert with our trading partners, adopted a landmark international maritime security regime through the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This approach helped minimize the potential for a proliferation of national, unilateral security requirements that could impair maritime commerce, while at the same time ensuring that meaningful security measures will be implemented on a global scale. More specifically, on December 13, 2002, over 100 nations at IMO adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and an International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA). In passing the MTSA, Congress expressly found that it is in the best interest of the United States to implement the security system developed by IMO because it contains the essential elements for enhancing maritime security. Both of these important instruments are major steps in addressing maritime security, and together they form the cornerstone of the nation's maritime homeland security strategy."

Collins continued: "The MTSA certainly addresses the critical need to focus on the security of America's 361 seaports and the maritime transportation system. However, it also creates a comprehensive legislative framework to enhance the security of the global maritime transportation system. It does this through a systematic approach of defining responsibilities, creating standards, assessing vulnerabilities, and authorizing funds to address those vulnerabilities."

"As the lead Federal agency for maritime security, the Coast Guard is developing regulations in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration, the Maritime Administration, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to implement the core security requirements of the MTSA," said Collins. "The regulations will not only carry out the intent of the MTSA, but also will generally reflect the new international maritime security requirements. The regulatory impact on the maritime industry will be significant, and the timeline for implementing the new robust maritime security requirements is exceptionally short. However, we are moving aggressively forward and hope to publish the regulations by July 2003."

"Among other requirements," he said, "the regulations will compel regulated vessels and facilities to conduct security assessments and to develop detailed security plans to address vulnerabilities revealed by those assessments. The regulations will contain requirements for the designation and competency of security personnel, including standards for training, drills, and exercises. The regulations will further designate Captains of the Port as local Federal Maritime Security Coordinators. In this role they will be delegated authority to conduct area security assessments and develop area security plans for their respective port area. This 'family of plans' approach establishes a layered system of protection that involves all maritime stakeholders, and will be consistent with the National Transportation System Security Plan being developed by the Transportation Security Administration, in coordination with the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate."

"Implementing the core maritime security requirements now," said Collins, "paves the way for additional improvements that will come about through subsequent Department of Homeland Security initiatives to improve identification credentials and processes, establish security-training programs, and implement cargo and container initiatives to improve the security of the supply chain.  The task is daunting, but enhanced maritime security must be an 'all hands' evolution. All maritime stakeholders must be cognizant of the regulatory timelines and the requirements that are fast approaching. Failure is not an option--the consequences are too high if we collectively fail to shore up the vulnerabilities plaguing the marine transportation system."

William Ellis, Director of Security for the Long Beach, CA, Harbor Department, testified on behalf of the American Association of Port Authorities, which represents almost 150 ports in Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States.

He stated that "more help is needed" from the federal level to assist in expanding port security.

"Ports have invested millions of dollars in port security since September 11, 2001, and providing federal funds to help escalate these improvements is vital," Ellis said.  "Without such help, any new federal requirements are likely to become unfunded federal mandates and subject to competing budgetary pressures at ports."

Bethann Rooney, Manager of Port Security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, also stated that additional federal funding was needed to help finance the new security programs.

Rooney said that "federal funding, unquestionably, is a key ingredient in the recipe for security the nation's coastal gateways.  My agency is grateful that Congress has provided funding to get the effort underway. However, more will be required."

"Furthermore," she continued, what has been appropriated must be spent as intended.  The Administration apparently has indicated its intent to reassign a portion of the Operation Safe Commerce and Port Security Grants funding to cover security-spending needs elsewhere in the Transportation Security Administration. We think that should be rejected."

"TSA was given an important but difficult charge by Congress to secure the nation's transportation system, a system that for the most part has been open much as our society is open.  We salute Admiral Loy and those at TSA for the good work they have accomplished and for the challenges they still face. However, eliminating Operation Safe Commerce and Port Security Grant funding would undermine these first steps that we have collectively taken to ensure that dangerous materials do not enter the United States through our ports."

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