News Releases

Washington's Borders, Ports, and Transportation Infrastructure To Benefit From Senate Bill

May 22 2002

Supplemental Appropriations bill also requires improvements in airport passenger customer service, privacy protection

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) The Senate put the finishing touches on a $31 billion supplemental appropriations bill that will fund border stations, port security efforts and equipment for first responders, Sen. Patty Murray announced Wednesday. A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray helped craft the bill over the last several weeks after hearing from cabinet officials, security experts, academics, and others about America's domestic security needs. The Appropriations Committee passed the Supplemental bill this afternoon, and the full Senate hopes to vote on the measure by Friday.

"Through extensive public hearings, the Senate has listened to the men and women on the front lines of our homeland defense, and has written a bill that will improve security at our borders, our ports, on our roads and in our skies," said Murray. "Washington State will benefit greatly from these investments, as we provide our first responders the tools they need."

Northern Border
The bill will provide $84 million for the construction of INS facilities at the northern border, including $500,000 for the Blaine Border Patrol Station, $1.1 million for the Oroville Border Patrol Station, and $3 million for a lease acquisition at the Colville Border Patrol Station.

New Coast Guard Boats for Puget Sound
The bill also provides funding for at least six new homeland security response boats, two of which will be stationed in the Puget Sound. These 87' harbor security vessels will help the Coast Guard conduct high interest vessel boardings and escort operations in the Puget Sound.

Port Security
Port security will be improved under the legislation. At Sen. Murray's direction, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will receive part of a new $28 million port security effort. "Operation Safe Commerce," is a pilot program that will provide funding to America's three largest container ports to address the security vulnerabilities posed by more than 6 million intermodal containers that enter U.S. ports each year.

The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma comprise the third busiest container port in the country, and handle the second most traffic on the west coast, after Los Angeles-Long Beach.

Washington's ports will also benefit from a $200 million grant program to help ports nationwide to strengthen security.

In addition to direct port security grants, the bill includes $59 million for the Container Security Initiative to improve cargo and container inspections and at America's 20 busiest seaports. The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will also benefit from these grants.

Airline Passenger Service
The legislation also includes directives to improve passenger service and privacy at America's airports. Since the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun taking over the screening responsibilities at America's airports, the passenger delays are often intolerable. Transportation Secretary Mineta has set a goal of getting every passenger through security checkpoints in 10 minutes or less.

The Senate legislation will hold the TSA accountable by requiring the agency to publish on its website the wait times at the nation's airports.

At Sen. Murray's insistence, the legislation also requires the TSA to ensure the privacy and dignity of airline passengers being screened, by keeping passengers from excessive intrusions into their personal items by federal agents.

Legislative Action
The Supplemental Appropriations bill is an annual spending bill that provides funding for a range of government operations that were not adequately funded in the annual appropriations bills.

The House of Representatives has reported a $29.8 billion Supplemental Appropriations bill, which should be taken up shortly.