Senate Bill Helps Secure Washington's Borders, Ports, and Transportation Infrastructure

Jun 07 2002

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

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) On a 71-22 vote early Friday morning, the U.S. Senate approved a $31 billion supplemental appropriations bill that will fund border stations and port security efforts in Washington state, Sen. Patty Murray announced Friday.

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.

"After extensive public hearings, the Senate has adopted and passed 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, which will strengthen port security, provide two new Coast Guard boats to our waters and upgrade our border facilities."

Northern Border

The bill will provide $84 million for the construction of INS facilities at the Northern Border including:

  • Blaine Border Patrol Station: $500,000
  • Oroville Border Patrol Station:$1.1 million
  • Colville Border Patrol Station (lease acquisition): $3 million
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 three ports take in half of all container cargo entering the U.S.

The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma comprise the third busiest container port in the country, after Los Angeles-Long Beach and New York-New Jersey.

Washington's ports will also benefit from a $200 million grant program to help ports nationwide to strengthen security. When Congress appropriated $93 million worth of port security grants last year, it was deluged by nearly $700 million in requests.

And 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.

"It is impossible to overstate the economic damage that could be done if we are suddenly required to slow down the trade lanes into and out of our country because of security concerns," Murray said. "This initiative will demonstrate the art of the possible when it comes to improving the security of container shipping."

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.

Senator Murray added language to hold the TSA accountable by requiring the agency to publish on its website the wait times at the nation's airports.

Also at Sen. Murray's insistence, the legislation 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.