Biden Embarks on Port Security Tour to Help Strengthen U.S. Seaports
Continuing his efforts to safeguard America's seaports, U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) today announced he will embark on a fact-finding trip, traveling to several key U.S. ports to get a firsthand look at what we are doing right and what more needs to be done to enhance our nation's port security. Senator Biden is planning to travel to facilities in South Carolina and Louisiana this week.
"Thankfully, it was the botched Dubai ports deal and not a horrific terrorist attack that refocused national attention on port security," said Biden. "American ports are critical to our homeland defense and our nation's economic well-being. We must do all that we can to protect our ports and close existing security loopholes."
Today Biden will meet with members of the Coast Guard and local law enforcement - the men and women on the front line of our defenses against terrorism. He will visit The Charleston Harbor Operation Center (commonly known as Project SeaHawk) in Charleston, South Carolina. This state of the art facility is a model for coordinated threat assessment and response that should be in place at major ports around the country. He will also meet with port authorities and operators in Louisiana later this week.
"September 11th taught us that terrorists are unlikely to strike us with conventional military weapons. Experts agree the next attack is likely to come from a bomb in a backpack or a homemade nuclear device smuggled into a port in a cargo container," said Biden. "It is not going to be a highly-trained marine who stops the next attack on our soil, but a police officer who notices a suspicious bag or a Customs official inspecting a cargo container. Equipping and training those officers with cutting edge technology and addressing vulnerabilities in our transit and ports should be our national priority."
Only about 5 percent of the estimated 10 million cargo containers that pass through America's ports each year are physically inspected.
Biden authored the Reducing Crime and Terrorism at America's Seaports Act, legislation recently signed into law that provides law enforcement with new tools to prevent and prosecute criminal acts at seaports. He also introduced the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Implementation Act, a bill to provide $1 billion per year in grants for port operators to enhance security operations in and around their facilities. The funds can also be used to replicate facilities like SeaHawk at other ports around the country. He will soon introduce legislation requiring all cargo containers to be scanned for radiation before they arrive at U.S. shores.
"We have got to do a better job of securing our nation's ports. I hope this tour will help me learn more about effective maritime initiatives, equipment, and programs that can be replicated and implemented at ports nationwide."