October 28, 2003

Port security funding still inadequate

A survey of American ports indicates that funding of port security measures remains inadequate and suggests that, at current spending levels, it could take 20 years to effect needed improvements.

"Despite new rules by the Administration and the press conference held by Secretary Ridge in Delaware, the survey responses reveal that ports are still vulnerable to major attack and local officials do not have adequate federal support to manage the new responsibility," said Representative George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee and one of the leaders of the survey. "I am concerned that Secretary Ridge's comments about finding the right 'balance' between public and private spending to shore up port security indicates the Administration is unwilling to adequately contribute to this vital effort."

According to Miller, the Administration has repeatedly failed to request any funding for port security in its budgets: the Fiscal Year 2003 and the Fiscal Year 2004 Administration budget contained no money for port security grants. The only funding to improve port security was provided by Congress--$588 million since 2001. But at this rate, it will take close to 20 years to make all the needed improvements.

"Our survey reveals that the Administration has failed to provide the resources needed to keep our seaports and communities safe," said Representative Chris Bell (D-TX), head of the Congressional Port Security Caucus and the other leader of the survey. "The Administration is leaving open a major area of vulnerability in our homeland security efforts by failing to help local communities secure their port traffic."

  • Officials at one major East Coast port reported that "additional funds will be needed for security personnel [and] training, as well as waterfront security detection devices and cargo scanning equipment."
  • Officials at one Gulf Coast port reported that it has had to defer vital maintenance and investment in capital infrastructure thanks to insufficient and delayed federal funding.
  • Officials for one Western port reported "great concern about the costs of training, credentialing and testing the security system," while officials at another western port said it would "be hard pressed to afford the necessary security enhancements" without an increase in federal and state funding.

According to Miller, the survey reveals that the Administration has not provided the resources needed to keep seaports and communities safe. Out of all the ports in this sample, the Administration had only conducted three vulnerability assessments--and one of these had been completed prior to the September 11th attacks. An assessment has only just begun at a fourth port. Though the ports were unable to calculate the precise cost of the new regulations before Secretary Ridge's announcement, each of the ports surveyed had requested funds from the federal government to help cover the increased cost of security after 9-11. But the Administration met few of these security needs, and most ports found the majority of their security requests remained unfunded.

The Port of Los Angeles has applied for $65.5 million in federal port security grants, but has been awarded less than ten percent of that. At Long Beach, approximately $65 million has been requested, but less than one-third has been received to date. Likewise, the Port of Tampa has requested $17.05 million and has received less than half. The Port of Baltimore has requested $17 million but received only $6 million to date. And at the Port of Oakland, the port and its tenants have spent $4 million of their own funds to support U.S. Coast Guard security requirements. Other seaports have told local policymakers of similar funding shortfalls.

In just one of many examples, a port on the East Coast had applied for $2.3 million in funding to help comply with the new rules. One part of the application--totaling $1.5 million--was not awarded, and though the remaining funds were awarded in June, four months later the money has still not been made available.

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