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Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today offered and amendment to the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would triple funding for the Port Security Grant program. The program, which last year alone received $1 billion in grant requests, currently has only $150 million appropriated to it in the Senate bill. Murray's amendment would boost that level to $450 million in an effort to meet the urgent and increasing need for security at all of our nation's ports.



The amendment failed on a procedural, mostly partisan, vote of 45-49.



Included below is a summary of the amendment and Murray's remarks on the floor of the Senate.



SUMMARY: The Murray Amendment would triple the level of Port Security Grant funding in this Homeland Security Appropriations bill currently before the Senate. While the bill contains $150 million for Port Security Grants -- $25 million more than is included in the House bill -- the amount is simply not enough to help our ports with their security needs. The Murray Amendment would provide a $300 million increase in Port Security funding for a total of $450 million in FY2005.





BACKGROUND



  • In FY2004, the Department of Homeland Security received nearly $1 billion in requests for Port Security Grants but had only $125 million to distribute. That funding was actually $25 million less than DHS got from Congress in FY2003.




  • The Commandant of the Coast Guard has testified that it will take more than $7 billion, including $1.5 billion this year, to implement the port security plans which were mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act.




  • According to the American Association of Ports Authorities, a minimum of $400 million is necessary to safeguard the most critical ports in the country.






NEED IN WASHINGTON STATE: Washington state has had the terror level raised to ORANGE six times in the past three years and soon, ferry systems across the country will be required to increase their threat posture due to “suspicious activity” on ferries and at terminals nationwide. This means increased vehicle inspections – and for the Washington State Ferry system, this means that each month, an estimated 21,000 additional vehicles will need to be inspected before they board our ferries.



The ferry system, State Patrol and Coast Guard will incur additional costs to secure what is essentially an extension of our highway system.





THE SENATE SHOULD PASS THE MURRAY AMENDMENT



The Murray Amendment would help to put the safe-guards in place to ensure that local communities aren’t forced to pick up the tab for federally mandated security measures. This increase is necessary to make an honest attempt to cover the federal share of securing some of the greatest economic engines of our economy, and the communities surrounding them.





FLOOR STATEMENT OF SENATOR PATTY MURRAY INSUPPORT OF TRIPLING FUNDING FOR THE PORT SECURITY GRANT PROGRAM



I rise today to offer an amendment that would help make our communities and our nation's ports safer and more secure.



I appreciate that funding for Homeland Security is significantly higher in this bill than the President’s budget request. It should be noted that under the leadership of Chairman Cochran and Senator Byrd, we have made progress since the Rudman Report suggested that we’re “dangerously unprepared and underfunded for a catastrophic terrorist attack.”



However, I’m still concerned that the priorities established in this bill are not sufficient to meet the challenges we face in confronting the terrorists who want to do us harm or the Homeland Security needs throughout the country.



It is our duty to protect our nation, and in order to do that we need to make the right the investments. These decisions are critical to ensuring that the American people, the communities they live in, our economy, and our country are safe and secure.



The debate we are having could not be more critical to the defense of our country. The bottom line though, is that we have got to do more to confront terrorists abroad and defend ourselves at home. Nowhere is this more true than in the areas of port security and securing our trade lanes.



This is not just one Senator’s opinion. It is the opinion of experts in the field and those brave women and men who defend our nation. In a recent interview, the Commander of NorthCom said, “it’s just a matter of time before terrorists would attempt a sea-borne . . . a maritime attack on the U.S.”



The 9/11 Commission Report stated that, “While commercial aviation remains a possible target, terrorists may turn their attention to other modes. Opportunities to do harm are as great, or greater, in maritime or surface transportation.”



And Steven Flynn, perhaps the pre-eminent expert in the field, says this about our nation’s efforts to better secure our ports: “This is an extremely soft target for America's enemies to exploit," and that a, "two-week shutdown of U.S. ports would collapse the global trade system. That's what we're talking about."



Despite this clear evidence, time after time, the White House and the rest of the Administration have taken the position of limiting investments in many of the policies and security initiatives that would make our nation safer.



I don’t say this to criticize Chairman Cochran or his staff. And Senator Byrd has been a true champion – at every single step of the way – in fighting to improve the security or our nation. Without his efforts we would be even worse off. But I raise this to reiterate my strong belief that we have a great responsibility to better secure our country, and it is my own belief that we are not doing enough to protect the communities we have been sent here to represent.



Specifically, we need to do more to identify and address threats to our country before they leave foreign shores. That means better intelligence and more personnel dedicated to finding and stopping terrorists. And those are issues that the Senate is currently debating. But we also need to give the people engaged in anti-terrorist activity the tools they need to succeed. We also need to harden our port facilities, support the Coast Guard in the fulfilling the missions they have been tasked to perform, and facilitate better coordination between federal agencies, states, and local first responders.



In the last several years we have steady, but slow, progress in better securing our port facilities and cargo trade lanes. And, we’ve learned some important lessons through innovative programs like Operation Safe Commerce, the Container Security Initiative, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. Soon the lessons we have learned should be applied in a way that will help to better protect our nation -- with the support of Chairman Cochran and Senator Byrd, the report accompanying this bill directs the Administration to create a national standard for cargo security. By February, the Department of Homeland Security is directed to take the data, analysis, and lessons learned from these cargo security programs and create a plan that will ensure that the cargo headed for our shores is safe to bring into our ports.



As the author of Operation Safe Commerce, I am particularly proud to report that despite early reluctance by the Administration, we are seeing real results through the implementation of this security program. After more than a year of preparation, we launched Operation Safe Commerce – a new era of port and cargo security that uses smart technology and the best supply-chain systems to protect our ports from those who would do us harm. And, just last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Port of Tacoma to see how Operation Safe Commerce, our three largest container load-centers, and the private-sector partners had answered our call.



Over the past five months shipments have been tracked from their origination point, whether that was an overseas factory floor or an agriculture field, to their final destination. The cargo traveled by truck, train and ship along their journey and we watched them every step of the way. The security was monitored and analyzed at the origination point, every subsequent transfer point, and on each mode of transportation until it reached the customer. When vulnerabilities were found in the supply chain, solutions were developed to ensure the integrity of the shipments.



In many cases it was discovered that the origination point lacked access control and general security. So, now we know that cameras, biometric identification technology, and third-party inspection are necessary to ensure the product’s integrity before it is loaded into a container. In other cases it was found that the integrity of container seals was not verified at each point in the supply chain. If the seal has been compromised when it arrives here, it is too late.



So, several technologies were recommended to ensure that we know if a seal has been broken, or a container has been opened. And, it was learned that the identity used by drivers to transfer the containers between supply chain points wasn’t always easily verified. So, the final Operation Safe Commerce report will make recommendations to address this as well.



When the 9/11 Commission published its report, it noted that initiatives like Operation Safe Commerce had just begun to secure shipping containers but an integrated strategic plan had not been developed. These early findings prove that Operation Safe Commerce is a model for how our nation can improve port security by identifying dangers before they leave foreign shores, and helping to ensure that cargo is safe when it arrives.



This innovative program is an excellent example of industry coming together to share experiences and best practices. And, I couldn’t be more proud that my home ports of Seattle and Tacoma along with Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York/New Jersey are leading the way to a new standard to secure cargo bound for U.S. ports.



But, while the hard work of these partners has begun to answer the call in defending our nation and responding to the 9/11 Commission, there's still much more we need to do. As a few of us in Congress, the 9/11 Commission, and experts in the field have called for, we must continue working together to develop a cargo security system as a national – and, ultimately, international – standard. And, we must provide the funding necessary to harden and protect our port facilities and the people who live and work near them.



I’m reminded of the challenge we face to secure these critical assets every time I come home to Washington state. My office in Seattle is located in the Jackson Federal building. From my window, I can see the third largest container load-center in the country; the largest passenger ferry system in the continental United States, carrying 26 million passengers annually; I can see an ever increasing number of cruise ships that call on Seattle; I can see active commerce and the thousands of people engaged in trade on a daily basis; I can see two professional sports stadiums that hold tens of thousands of people; and, literally thousands of residences and homes of people who live near port facilities.



Again, this is all in close proximity to the Port of Seattle. And this view is not much different than the view of other ports in my state and, frankly, all around the country. And, that’s why I want to make sure that all of America’s ports are safe.



I know that every Senator agrees that nothing is more important than protecting our country, and over the next few days I hope we can all work together to do a better job for our nation, our states and the individual communities we all represent.



I know that unless we make the right decisions in Washington, D.C., our security, our economy, and our communities will be threatened. And, that’s why I’m offering the Murray Amendment to triple the level of Port Security Grant funding in this bill. While the amount contained in the bill ($150 million) for Port Security Grants is greater than that included in the House bill ($125 million), I remain concerned that the amount is simply not enough to help our ports with their security needs.



The Commandant of the Coast Guard has testified that it will take more than $7 billion, including $1.5 billion this year, to implement the port security plans which were mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. In the last fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security received nearly $1 billion in requests for Port Security Grants.



Since that time, Congress has only provided $275 million in Port Security Grants – $150 million last year (FY03) and just $125 million this year (FY04). According to the Coast Guard, that leaves us over a billion dollars short of our commitment to these vulnerable assets. And, according to the American Association of Ports Authorities, a minimum of $400 million is necessary to safeguard the most critical ports in the country.



While I’ve always known the need for extra Port Security funding, the urgency was recently highlighted for me at home. We have had the terror level raised to ORANGE six times in the past three years and soon, ferry systems across the country will be required to increase their threat posture due to “suspicious activity” on ferries and at terminals nationwide.



And, while this “suspicious activity” is not necessarily attributable to the actions of potential terrorists, the steps we are taking are a necessary precaution. But, protecting our country comes with a price. This means increased vehicle inspections – and for the Washington State Ferry system, this means that each month, an estimated 21,000 additional vehicles will need to be inspected before they board our ferries. The ferry system, State Patrol and Coast Guard will incur additional costs to secure what is essentially an extension of our highway system – costs that are not budgeted for, and costs that could have been avoided.



We could have avoided these extra costs with enough funding to secure these terminals. It seems penny-wise but pound-foolish to scrimp on the port and terminal security so many experts have called for.



The Murray Amendment would provide a $300 million increase in Port Security funding for a total of $450 million in FY2005. This amendment would help to put the safe-guards in place to ensure that local communities aren’t forced to pick up the tab for federally mandated security measures. This increase is necessary to make an honest attempt to cover the federal share of securing some of the greatest economic engines of our economy, and the communities that surround them.



I urge my colleagues to support the Murray Amendment.