Industry criticizes DHS for short-chaning port security

Published 7 February 2007

Maritime- and port-related industries criticize DHS for continuing to give a disproportionately large slice of federal security funding to aviation security, while being unreasonably frugal when it comes to port security

If there has been one constant in the criticism by security experts (and, yes, the interested industires) of the budgetary priorities of DHS, it is this: Too much — way too much — money is being lavished on air traffic security, while woefully little is being devoted to bolstering the security of maritime and land transportation. Here is a wager: The latest DHS allocation for port security will not quell the chorus of critics.

Dispiritied representatives of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), a pan-American alliance, told a press conference at the National Press Club that the $210 million allotted to port security in the latest round of DHS grants is a stark reduction from the $400 million authorized in the landmark Safe Port Act last autumn.

Since the 9/11 attacks, AAPA has consistently lobbied for more port security funding, never losing an opportunity to draw comparisons with the aviation industry, which in the association’s opinion gets a disproportionately large slice of federal security funding. The association says that independent audits have established an annual benchmark for maritime security funding of much more than the $400 million earmarked in the Safe Port Act, but the AAPA was still content to recommend the amount last year. The $210 million which was appropriated for round seven of the Port Security Grant Programme is a 20 percent increase over the $175 million appropriated in the previous fiscal year.

AAPA president Kurt Nagle says that the Bush administration continues to short-change port security. “The administration’s budget request calls for an 8 percent overall increase in DHS’ budget but no increase for ports,” he said.

AAPA has another complaint: The under-funding of dredging in U.S. waterways. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Programme required $1.1-$1.3 billion, but the latest budget has allotted only $735 million. Channel maintenance is a shared responsibility between federal and state governments and the private sector. The federal government maintains harbor access channels, but individual ports spend more than $2.1 billion annually to maintain shoreside facilities and berths.

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