Update: This Budget Resolution passed the Senate Budget Committee on 3/15/07.
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a key member of the Senate Budget Committee, succeeded in including $400 million for the port security grant program in her SAFE Ports Act in the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Resolution. Murray co-authored the SAFE Ports Act with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
The SAFE Ports Act, which was signed into law in October 2006, takes critical steps forward in securing our nation's ports, while maintaining the efficiency of our trade. The $400 million included today is the full funding level for the port security grants program as agreed upon by the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, port authorities, and numerous other public and private entities. The Democratic Budget Resolution raises spending on this critical program by $190 million over the President's budget request.
"This is a tremendous victory for Washington state, national security, and port communities across the country," said Murray. "This funding means more bomb and chemical detectors, cameras, and security gates at our nation's ports. It will also help fund the training and exercises our ports have told us they need to practice their response to an incident."
Immediately after the SAFE Ports Act was passed last October, Senator Murray wrote to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Rob Portman to insist that funding for the act be included in the President's budget request. The President's budget left out nearly half of the funding for the critical port security grant program.
As the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Democratic Leadership, Senator Murray worked in the Budget Committee to include the full $400 million in the Democratic Budget Resolution.
"Last year, Congress and the President enacted the SAFE Ports Act and sent a strong signal that the security of our ports is a top priority," said Murray. "However, it is not enough just to have a policy, you have to have the funding in place if we want this program to truly work. I am very pleased that with all of the competing budget priorities, I was able to help fund these vital grants."
In addition to creating the port security grant program, the bipartisan SAFE Ports act raises security standards for all cargo entering the U.S., creates a pilot project to scan 100% of cargo containers overseas, and creates a system to resume trade after an incident. Most of the other portions of the legislation have been funded in the President's budget and have been protected in the Democratic Budget Resolution.
Several ports in Senator Murray's home state of Washington will see tremendous benefit from the fully funded port security grant program. While the ports of Seattle and Tacoma have already seen substantial port security funding, this increase will mean more support for ports north of Seattle and those in the southwestern part of the state.
"This funding is going to protect many of the smaller Washington state port communities whose economies depend on the quick, safe movement of goods through their ports" said Murray. This funding can be utilized for new boats and overtime pay for the men and women patrolling the waters around our state's ports."