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Marine Log

February 6, 2007

AAPA: Budget underfunds port security, dredging

In its proposed fiscal 2008 budget, the Bush administration recommends the Department of Homeland Security's Port Security Grant program -- the only federal program that assists public ports to fund marine facility security improvements -- receive $210 million in congressional appropriations.

This is the largest amount the president has ever recommended as a line item for this program and it is equal to what Congress appropriated in fiscal 2007.

But the the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) says it it is "in stark contrast to action taken last fall when Congress approved and the president signed into law the SAFE Port Act of 2006, authorizing $400 million a year in Port Security Grant program appropriations -- the level that AAPA recommended."

The administration's budget request calls for an 8 percent overall increase in DHS's budget in fiscal 2008, but recommends no increase for port facility security.

"The federal share of the seaport facility security funding partnership needs to be increased to the level the president and Congress approved in the SAFE Port Act," said Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of AAPA.

According to Nagle, the administration's budget request also seeks an insufficient amount to fund the Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program, which is vital to meet the navigation needs of America's seaports and the businesses they serve. Although $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion in funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is needed to maintain federal navigation channels, the administration's budget calls for only $735 million.

AAPA says that U.S. port development and maintenance is a shared responsibility of federal, state and local governments, with extensive private sector participation. The federal government maintains harbor access channels, while individual ports spend more than $2.1 billion annually to construct and maintain the landside terminal facilities, dredge their own berths and contribute to channel improvement cost-sharing programs.

Overall, the administration is requesting $4.871 billion for the Corps' Civil Works program, compared to the $4.733 billion it requested last year, representing about a 3 percent increase.

"We're pleased the president's budget request for the Corps' overall Civil Works program appropriation is about $141 million more than last year's request. If accepted, that would translate to $28 million more coming out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to pay for navigation channel maintenance," said Nagle. "While we applaud any incremental increase in funding for this program, the president's proposed budget still falls far short of the more than $1 billion that is needed annually to maintain the nation's navigation channels at their required depths and widths."