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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – By a vote of 95-0, the full Senate today passed a conference agreement, which would enhance security efforts at U.S. port facilities, and protect citizens, cargo and infrastructure from potential security threats. The Maritime Transportation Security Act authorizes matching grants for the next five years to help beef up port security.

Senator Murray, Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee issued the following statement:

"In Washington state, seaports are the lifeblood of our region's economy. Our ports move billions of dollars of goods each day and generate tens of thousands of good paying jobs that support families throughout our state.

The tragic events of September 11th have taught us we must do more to make our country safer, and to protect our lives and our liberty. An attack on one of our ports could have a dramatic impact on our economy. Today's passage of the Maritime Transportation Security Act will help us better prepare for potential security threats at our nation's seaports.

We face the challenge of improving security without undermining efficiency, which is why I wrote and helped fund a new initiative called "Operation Safe Commerce." This pilot program allows our nation's three largest port centers -- including Seattle and Tacoma -- to monitor and track cargo through their entry into the U.S. and onto their final destination.

Today's legislation is another step forward. The bill mandates for the first time ever that all ports, facilities and vessels implement comprehensive security plans and rapid response plans based on the security recommendations of the Coast Guard. It sets up local port security committees to better coordinate the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to design security plans, and it requires all commercial vessels navigating U.S. waters to use high-tech identification systems.

Today's bill also authorizes an increase in the Coast Guard's total budget for fiscal year 2003 to support both homeland security and traditional missions. But as the need for Coast Guard security patrols has grown, the traditional missions haven't disappeared. We still need the Coast Guard to keep drugs and illegal migrants off our shores, to protect our environment, to safeguard our maritime missions, and to protect the lives of our fisherman and the integrity of our fishing grounds.

Washington state will benefit greatly from these programs, which will strengthen security at our ports and on our waterways. This bill will help protect Washington state citizens and prevent trade slowdowns that could negatively impact our economy.

While this authorization bill is an important step forward, Congress still faces the burden of paying for these security measures. With a flagging economy, a war on the horizon and a return to deficit spending, federal budgets are stretched thin. I hope that the President will make port security a priority in his upcoming budget."