March 24, 2003

Senate moves to add $2 billion to port security budget
On Friday, the U.S. Senate, by voice vote, approved an amendment offered by Sen. Fritz Hollings to provide funding in the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution for additional port security. The amendment would dedicate $2 billion in funding to meet port security requirements of the landmark Maritime Transportation Security Act, which was co-authored by Hollings and signed into law last year. "Knowing how devastating an attack on our ports could be, it is unthinkable that we have yet to provide adequate port security funding," Sen. Hollings said upon introducing the amendment. "My amendment simply makes the necessary budgetary commitment that this potential threat requires. Congress unanimously passed the new port security laws, so every Member clearly recognizes how important this is. But, to this point, neither the Administration nor Congress have delivered the necessary funding."

Hollings continued, "The Coast Guard, Customs, Transportation Security Administration, local law enforcement, and port operators are doing everything they can to ensure that our ports are secure, but they do not have the resources necessary to create the kind of security system that we must have in the long run. We can turn that around, but it requires that we make a steadfast commitment to pay for these vital homeland security functions My amendment does just that."

Sen. Hollings proposed that Congress dedicate $1 billion annually for port security this year and next. The Hollings blueprint for this funding directs $610 million to the Maritime Administration, $160 million to the Coast Guard and $230 million to the Border and Transportation Security Directorate to meet a variety of security requirements outlined in the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

"To put this in context of the economy and tax cuts, one must realize that any suggested 'stimulative' benefit of a tax cut would be null and void in the face of an economy devastated by an inoperable port system," Hollings said. "Ninety-five percent of all America's U.S. overseas commerce flows through the seaport system. Last year, when U.S. ports on the West Coast were temporarily closed because of labor strikes, economists estimated that the closure of those ports cost our economy $2 billion a day. That impact pales in comparison to the economic devastation that would result from a dirty bomb imported in a container through the port of Charleston or Philadelphia, or a ship colliding with an oil facility along the Houston Ship Channel. In fact, a recent 'war game' analyzed by Booze Allen Hamilton concluded that the economy would collapse within 20 days following an attack on a U.S. port. We can't play games with this funding. We've got to get it done."

In conference negotiations last fall on the Maritime Transportation Security Act, Sen. Hollings led Senate conferees in advocating for a guaranteed funding source for port security. Senate conferees proposed a user fee on cargo shippers, akin to the user fee on airline passengers utilized to fund aviation security. When members of the House Ways and Means Committee and other House conferees rejected this approach, Senate conferees agreed that the bill must be passed. While the Maritime Transportation Security Act, as passed, imposed an unfunded security mandate on the nation's ports, it directed the President to submit funding plans within six months of enactment.

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