John Kerry: Investigation Shows Bureaucratic Bungling Still Hurting Our Port Security
Today's Report Required by Kerry Amendment
The Department of Homeland Security will release an investigation today into port security - an investigation John Kerry called for eight months ago to fix gaping holes in the security of America's ports.
Today's Inspector General's report was required by an amendment John Kerry authored to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill last year.
"It's been more than four years since 9/11, and the government still can't get port security right. The incompetent handling of the Dubai Ports deal was just the tip of the iceberg. Shiploads of cargo slip into our ports uninspected and the Department of Homeland Security wastes millions on idiotic projects that score zero on their own threat scale while needed security improvements aren't happening and our ports and cities remain vulnerable," said John Kerry.
Kerry's amendment required the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on the department's progress implementing 12 recommended changes to improve the Port Security Grant Program.
In January 2005, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General issued a report criticizing the department's management of the Port Security Grant Program, saying there is "no assurance that the program is protecting the nation's most critical and vulnerable infrastructure and assets." The Inspector General found that many of the projects that received funding lacked merit, the program's bureaucracy prevented money from getting to the most vulnerable ports and that available assessments of ports' infrastructure and vulnerabilities were not used effectively.
Today's report shows that bureaucratic bungling continues to hamper work to secure America's ports. In the report, the Inspector General notes that "it is not clear that DHS knows how much actual risk reduction has been achieved."
Summary of today's report:
Of the 132 projects that received funding in the latest round of port security grants, the Inspector General identified 20 projects - totaling $29.3 million, or 20 percent of total grant funds - that Department of Homeland Security reviewers found did not meet "national security priorities but were funded nonetheless." Some of these projects scored zero on the national priority threat scale.
After last year's Inspector General report came out, the Department of Homeland Security started ranking projects on a point scale. A project could get 20 points if it qualified as a national priority, 5 points if it is consistent with the Area Maritime Security Plan, 5 points if it meshes with local security priorities, and 5 points for cost effectiveness - for a total of 35 points.
Although this ranking system shows a preference for projects that have national significance, Department of Homeland Security still has no minimum scoring threshold for projects. The Inspector General said: "The absence of a minimum scoring threshold. . . resulted in the program funding projects that provided no national threat priority reduction or were ranked below other projects." The report also says that "projects not meeting such a threshold should not be funded."
Examples of merit-less projects that received funding:
# The Department of Homeland Security funded a $136,000 project to place security lights on a bridge even though it scored zero on the national priority threat.
# The Department of Homeland Security gave $3,110 to provide generators to power a lighting system for which they had already denied funding.
Example of project with merit that was denied funding:
Although the Department of Homeland Security favorably reviewed a project to expand interoperability though an expanded central dispatch - and scored the project at 25 - it was not funded. The field review even said "the layered security provided by implementing communication interoperability system dramatically reduces the risk for all these critical infrastructures and enables all local law enforcement, as well as Federal and industrial agencies to respond to any potential threats or breaches of security."
Millions to Fortune 500 Companies
# Of the 20 projects that received a score of 0 in the national threat priority criteria, 12 were private sector projects.
# According to the Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security awarded $1 million to a Fortune 500 Company for fencing and surveillance upgrades, even though the company had a 3rd quarter net income of $1.2 billion.