News Releases

Will Bush Administration Stick Ports With Unfunded Mandate?

Feb 10 2004

Murray to Ridge: Fund security needs at our ports
Ridge to Ports: Wait and See

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – While answering questions posed by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge today suggested that America’s ports might be left holding the bag when it comes to implementing port security plans mandated by the Administration last year.

At a Senate hearing on the President’s FY ’05 Homeland Security budget, Murray told Ridge that according to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Collins, the Administration has failed to adequately fund the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA). MTSA – which Congress authorized in November 2002 – mandates for the first time ever that all ports, facilities and vessels must implement comprehensive security plans and rapid response plans based on the security recommendations of the Coast Guard.

According to Admiral Collins’ Senate testimony in September, it will take $7.3 billion over 10 years to implement MTSA, including $1.5 billion in FY ‘05. The President’s budget request provides only $1.5 billion – only 7 percent of what the Coast Guard needs.

“…There’s plenty of public money in these ports already,” Ridge said in response to Murray’s concerns. “They provide the land. They buy cranes. In many instances, they provide the personnel. So, the notion that there’s not much of a public investment in the ports, based on my experience, is not accurate. At some point in time in the distribution chain, in my view is that the ports are part of the supply chain and distribution chain of the private sector, that they ought to defray some of the expenses associated with it.”

Ridge’s suggestion that our ports and private industries should be held accountable for an unfunded federal mandate could be disastrous for the safety of our communities and the security of our economy.

“I’m listening to your logic, but I would just respectfully say that if one terminal or port in this country said, ‘We’re not going to anti up the money – we don’t have it’ and a terrorist used that weak link to come into this country, all of us would be paying the consequences for that,” Murray said.