(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray has helped secure critical port and urban security funds in the Homeland Security bill, which passed the Senate late Thursday night by a vote of 95-1.
The funds, including new money for both Operation Safe Commerce (a Murray initiative to monitor and track container cargo) and port security grants, will help protect Washington state residents and the local economy from possible terrorist attacks.
The Senate-passed Homeland Security bill includes an additional $30 million for Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) and would expand the scope of OSC beyond the initial three container load centers. The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma received $27.5 million of the initial $58 million in OSC funding.
"Washington state and the nation will be safer because of Operation Safe Commerce," Senator Murray said. "I am proud that the Senate is providing even more support to make certain that security at our ports is a top national priority. This bill will help us to protect more Americans and keep commerce moving through our nation’s ports."
Last month, Murray won a battle with the Bush Administration over funding for Operation Safe Commerce. After Congress approved – and the President signed into law – $58 million for Operation Safe Commerce, the Administration threatened to "reprogram" $28 million from the container security initiative and spend it elsewhere. But after Sen. Murray took the extraordinary step of placing a "hold" on a senior Administration budget nominee, the White House abandoned its plan to divert nearly half of the $58 million that Congress had approved for the port security initiative.
"I'm concerned that the Administration's past reluctance to fund Operation Safe Commerce in a timely way has placed us behind the curve in terms of port security," Murray said today. "I hope we can all work together in the days ahead to do a better job for our families, our communities and our nation."
The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill also includes $150 million for Port Security Grants, to enable ports to improve their infrastructure. The Bush Administration, for the second year, requested no funding for these critical grants, and the House of Representatives' Homeland Security bill included only $100 million.
The Senate bill also includes $750 million for "High Threat Urban Area" grants for the top 20 high-risk cities in the nation. Seattle ranks 7th in the country on the list and will receive grant funding based on a formula of threat analysis, critical infrastructure and population density. Seattle has received $29.5 million in the past year under the under the Urban Area Security Initiative of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Domestic Preparedness.
"These grants are great news for the residents of Seattle," Senator Murray said. "With local budgets being squeezed, our police and firefighters deserve every available resource to help protect the safety of Seattle residents. I am proud to have supported these federal funds to keep our families and communities safe."
Senator Murray has been the state's most effective leader in securing federal resources for homeland security. In the last two years, Murray has secured 5 new Coast Guard vessels and crews to beef up patrols in the Puget Sound. Murray is responsible for bringing the first Coast Guard anti-terror "SWAT Team" to Seattle to provide rapid interdiction of maritime threats. She has also been a long-time advocate for increasing resources to the Northern Border and helped provide funding to significantly increase the numbers of INS and Customs agents on the Northern Border.