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Public Statements

Menendez, Others Press for Increased Port Security Funds

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MENENDEZ, OTHERS PRESS FOR INCREASED PORT SECURITY FUNDS

On Thursday, Menendez to offer budget amendment to increase container scanning and inspection, triple port security grants

One day before he will offer an amendment in the Senate Budget Committee to increase container scanning and inspection and triple port security grants, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today called on senior members of the Senate Budget Committee to dedicate specific budget dollars to fund desperately needed port security measures. Menendez was joined on this letter by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Dayton (D- MN), and Jack Reed (D-RI).

"The 9/11 commission implored American lawmakers to think the 'unthinkable' in considering how to best protect America's homeland," Menendez said. "But, thus far, we've been unable to adequately handle the basics. It is not enough to only talk about securing American ports. To make U.S. ports truly safer, we need to dramatically increase the scanning and inspection of all cargo containers entering our country."

In the letter, addressed to Senators Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, the eight senators pushed for dedicated funding for port security measures.

"Meeting the security needs of our nation's ports has been a critical national security issue for years, and yet we are still not making the adequate investment needed to secure our ports," the senators wrote. "Despite the clear weaknesses in our port security, our ports still do not have the adequate funding they need to respond."

On Thursday, Menendez will offer an amendment to the budget resolution for fiscal year 2007 that would add $965 million in new funding for port security. The measure would increase container inspections, putting the country on the road to 100 percent scanning of containers. It would also add funds to improve existing programs, increase funding for research & development to improve existing scanning and port security technologies and triple grant funding for port security.

These provisions, coupled with measures to increase port security staff and purchase needed technology, will move American ports closer to scanning and inspecting 100 percent of cargo containers entering U.S. ports. Currently only about five percent of cargo is inspected.

President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget proposal calls for $600 million for a Targeted Infrastructure Protection grant program, which would fund security efforts for a series of critical infrastructure, including ports, chemical plants, rail, transit, and bus systems. Industry experts indicate $600 million falls far short of properly and adequately securing critical American infrastructure. For port security grants alone, the American Association of Port Authorities has called for $400 million.

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March 8, 2006

The Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Kent Conrad
Ranking Member
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Gregg and Senator Conrad:

As you work to craft the fiscal year 2007 budget resolution, we urge you to pay particular attention to the security needs of our nation's ports. Keeping in mind the constraints facing the nation's budget this year, we ask that you provide adequate funding to secure, protect, and monitor our ports.

The recent debate over our ports has highlighted a vulnerability underlying our nation's security efforts that has been ignored for too long. Our ports are the gateway to this country. The cargo that goes through our ports is essential to our economy and our nation's security. Yet our ports also pose unique and challenging security risks. Containers could conceal a deadly weapon or smuggle any number of items that could be used in an attack against our nation.

Meeting the security needs of our nation's ports has been a critical national security issue for years, and yet we are still not making the adequate investment needed to secure our ports. If there is anything we have learned from the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is that threats to our country will come in new and unthinkable ways. We cannot anticipate all the threats the nation may face, but we can provide the resources to protect our critical infrastructure.

Despite the clear weaknesses in our port security, our ports still do not have the adequate funding they need to respond. In 2003, the Coast Guard estimated it would need $7.2 billion to implement the security requirements of the Maritime Transportation Security Act. While Congress has provided just under than $800 million for these efforts since September 11, 2001, there is much more that needs to be done.

This year, the president's budget calls for $600 million for a Targeted Infrastructure Protection grant program, which would provide funding for security efforts for a series of critical infrastructure, including ports, chemical plants, rail, transit, and bus systems. A combined funding level of $600 million does not even come close to what is needed to ensure our nation's safety. For port security alone, the American Association of Port Authorities has called for $400 million. Yet, port security is not the only aspect of our security that has been overlooked: transit, rail, and chemical plant security all pose tremendous risks and require significant increases in funding. Passenger rail security alone requires $1.2 billion, according to the American Public Transportation Association, and far more is needed for our mass transit systems. Every part of our nation's infrastructure requires dedicated funding for security. Therefore, we urge you to reject this TIP funding proposal and fund port security through a dedicated grant program.

Without adequate federal investment in the security of our ports, we cannot assure the nation that we have taken steps to ensure their safety. We appreciate your attention to this concern, and we look forward to working with you on a budget resolution that will protect our nation and reflect the values of all Americans.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Patty Murray
United States Senator

Mark Dayton
United States Senator

John F. Kerry
United States Senator

Jack Reed
United States Senator

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulksi
United States Senator

Daniel K. Akaka
United States Senator

http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=252491&&

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