SECURITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR EVERY PORT ACT -- (Senate - September 14, 2006)
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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise to support passage of H.R. 4954, the Port Security Act. This bill will improve security at our ports and it is a step in the right direction. It will invest more money and coordinate programs to improve cargo screening, hire more personnel to increase physical security at ports, require background checks for port workers, and expedite deployment of radiation detection equipment to prevent the smuggling of nuclear material into our ports. All of these measures represent a better and smarter approach towards port security and homeland security generally. But we need to do much more.
It has been 5 years since the 9/11 attacks and sadly we still have much more to do to prevent a repeat of that catastrophe. We are troubled that this Congress has failed to implement many of the changes suggested by the 9/11 Commission more than 2 years after their final report. For example, the Commission urged us to improve border security through a more efficient entry-exit screening system. Despite the national outcry to beef up border security as we have seen during the ongoing immigration debate, we have yet to adequately address this problem.
The 9/11 Commission also recommended that we develop smarter plans to secure not only our air transportation system but also our rail and main transit systems. As the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 taught us, terrorists are more than willing and able to attack our trains, buses, and subway systems.
And even though we have spent billions to better protect air passengers, we must better screen for explosives in checked baggage and air cargo. The plot to use liquid explosives uncovered by British intelligence services in August revealed that we are unable to properly scan for all explosives. We can and must do more to protect these vulnerabilities against attack.
Unfortunately, what needs to be done to improve homeland security is not limited to the transportation sector. For example, we must also do more to improve security at our nuclear powerplants and chemical factories. Study after study has shown that a tragic attack on one of these facilities could kill thousands of Americans.
Such a bleak assessment of what still needs to be done--a full 5 years after 9/11--should gravely concern us. It is no wonder that a majority of Americans do not feel safer. According to an ABC News poll taken last week, 74 percent of Americans said they were concerned about the possibility of more major terrorist attacks in the United States. That same poll also found that 60 percent said more should be done to stop terrorists from striking again. Clearly, public sentiment demands that we improve homeland security. Passage of the port security bill will demonstrate that we can work together to make America safer. While this marks progress, it is just one piece of a much larger homeland security puzzle that we need to tackle. This must be our No. 1 priority and I urge my colleagues to continue working together towards this goal.