News Releases

Murray Speaks In Favor of Homeland Security Funding

Jan 15 2003

Highlights Washington's Transportation Security Needs

Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks



(Washington, D.C.) - Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the Byrd Homeland Security Amendment.

Her remarks follow:


Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the Homeland Security Amendment offered by Senator Byrd. I'm pleased that I've had the opportunity to work closely with Senator Byrd on the details of this Amendment because it impacts the security of our transportation systems.

And before I start, I want to align myself with the very thoughtful and important remarks of the Senator from North Dakota regarding the Northern Border. Senator Dorgan has brought real attention to the Northern Border issues that are so important to Washington State. This work must continue in spite of the President's cuts to the border security initiatives the Senate has previously approved.

Mr. President, this amendment represents months of work on behalf of Senator Byrd and the Appropriations Committee.

Senator Byrd, as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, convened a series of hearings last Spring to discuss Homeland Security needs. We heard from numerous Cabinet Secretaries including Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Secretary Mineta. Several respected national security experts gave valuable testimony. We heard from several Governors including Governor Locke from Washington State. Mayors appeared before the Appropriations Committee as did fire chiefs, health department officials and water and sewer authorities.

Senator Byrd and the Appropriations Committee worked very hard to identify real needs for Homeland Security. The Byrd Homeland Security amendment is in large part the result of these hearings and our continued efforts to work with the true first responders. Homeland Security is an enormous task. We all know this. And it is going to be enormously expensive. We all know this.

Sadly, the Administration has not requested adequate funding for Homeland Security needs throughout our country.

The President refused to spend Homeland Security monies previously approved in bipartisan fashion by the Congress. And the bill before us today, at the President's insistence makes further cuts in Homeland Security funding.

Homeland security is about our entire country. However, Mr. President, I must tell you that this issue is tremendously important to Washington state.

Already, thanks to an alert customs agent, we arrested a terrorist suspect crossing into Washington State with explosive materials.

We are an international state with links and vulnerabilities in our ports, our rail and highway infrastructure, and our international airport.

We are a trade state with an economy closely linked to the world. We have significant military assets, nuclear facilities, and many popular tourist-gathering points.

My state is aggressively moving forward to protect Washingtonians. We need a partner in the President and the federal government. Unfortunately, the underlying bill does not address all of our homeland security needs. Homeland security should not be an unfunded mandate.

Mr. President, as a nation, we are working hard to close the security gaps that still exist. We know that transportation systems are a frequent target of terrorist attacks. In fact, when you look at the worldwide statistics, one-third of the terrorist attacks that take place around the world target transportation systems including aircraft, highways, commuter rail systems, subways, commercial ships, and ferries.

As many have observed, our security is only as strong as our weakest link. This Amendment will help strengthen some of our weakest links in port security, aviation, and mass transit.

PORT SECURITY

Let me start with port security. We've still got a lot of work to do protect our nation's ports.

As my colleagues will recall, we passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act 95-0. That Act put new requirements on ports.

However, effectively no funds have been provided to our nation's port authorities to implement those new requirements, which will cost billions of dollars. The underlying bill provides very little money to enhance port security. I'm pleased that the Byrd Amendment would dramatically increase the security funds available to our ports.

I ask Senators to reflect for a moment on what a terrorist incident in our nation's ports would mean to our nation's economy. Just look at what happened this past fall, when West Coast dockworkers were locked out of their jobs. It's estimated that the lockout cost our economy $1 billion a day.

A terrorist attack on our ports – or an attack carried out through our cargo container system – would undermine our nation's confidence in the hundreds of thousands of containers that criss-cross our country every day.

And beyond the human toll an attack on or through our ports would have a dramatic economic impact and could bring the flow of commerce to a dead stop.

It's not enough just to pass an authorization bill saying that we have better secured our ports. We've actually got to provide the resources to make our ports more secure. The Byrd Amendment boosts – by almost half a billion dollars – the amount of grant money available to our public port authorities. I want to commend the Senator for his vision and leadership on this critical challenge.

Another way to secure our ports is through Operation Safe Commerce, an initiative that I started in last year's Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. This TSA initiative was launched with the cooperation of the Customs Service. For the first time, it provides a mechanism to track containers from their point of origin to their point of destination. As a result, we will have much better information about where the container came from, what's in it, and whether or not it requires either X-Ray or further inspection.

With the initial funding that we provided for this initiative -- and the $30 million included in the underlying bill -- we've had to limit these grants to the three major container ports in our country. Those three ports take in roughly three quarters of all the containers entering the U.S. With the additional funding provided under Senator Byrd's Amendment we will be able to greatly expand the number of ports that can participate in this initiative.

Finally, as I talk about port security, I want to mention the new demands being placed on our Coast Guard.

For a long time I've been very concerned that these new homeland security requirements mean that the Coast Guard isn't getting adequate resources – or paying adequate attention -- to its tradition missions such as Search and Rescue, Fisheries Enforcement, and Marine Environmental Protection.

In order to get the Coast Guard the kind of assets it needs to conduct port security, Senator Byrd's Amendment includes sufficient funds to boost the Coast Guard's inventory of coastal patrol boats.

These are the ideal platform for the Coast Guard's Homeland Security mission.

Unfortunately the Coast Guard has not been able to buy enough of them, in part because of other major contract obligations that are outstanding.

We cannot continue to burden the Coast Guard with additional missions without providing them the resources and the tools they need to do their job. I'm pleased the Byrd Amendment provides those resources.

MASS TRANSIT

Another weak link this amendment will address concerns mass transit. The majority of fatalities resulting from transportation terrorist incidents have been in the area of mass transit, specifically from buses.

The challenge in securing our mass transit systems is daunting. By their very nature, transit systems are designed to be open and accessible and to accommodate many people in a very short period of time.

It's a real challenge, but we've got to address it. The Amendment that Senator Byrd has offered states that we are not going to shrink away from this vulnerability. It says we will better protect the millions of citizens who commute to their jobs each day.

The $300 million included in this Amendment will make a serious down payment and get our nation's transit systems focused on mechanisms that will simultaneously protect their passengers without clogging our transit systems. I commend Senator Byrd for recognizing this vulnerability and for addressing it.

AVIATION SECURITY

Finally, I want to turn to aviation security, and I want to commend the Senator for including an additional $250 million for our nation's airports. As my colleagues know, the Aviation Transportation Security Act mandated that we check all passengers' checked baggage for explosives.

Just a few weeks ago, the Transportation Security Administration met that deadline. But the truth is there is a huge amount of construction that needs to be done to transition our nation's airports from the interim explosive detection solutions to more permanent and efficient system to check all bags for explosives.

From the very first day that this requirement was put into the law, the Transportation Security Administration has consistently refused to request adequate funds to compensate the airports for these costs.

They have consistently underestimated the true costs to implement these massive retrofits in order to leave our airports "holding the bag" for these costs.

The Amendment offered by Senator Byrd provides an extra $200 million -- over and above the $250 million included in the underlying bill -- to more accurately reflect the real cost of this initiative in fiscal year 2003.

Mr. President, we will be paying the cost to implement the Transportation Security Act for many more years to come.

Our airports do not have easy access to the kind of resources that will be needed to make these necessary investments.

The airlines – which the airports depend on for rates and charges -- are almost uniformly in serious financial difficulty.

Many airports have already extended about as many bonds as they can currently afford to pay off – so this amendment will provide critical support. Mr. President, I'm proud of the progress this amendment makes in adequately funding port security, mass transit and aviation security.

I commend Chairman Byrd for this Amendment, and I urge all my colleagues to support it.

We cannot let the protection of the American people be ignored because an OMB director a few blocks down the road has said that discretionary spending will not exceed a certain arbitrary figure.

We have serious security needs in this country, and this amendment will help us meet them.