The House Homeland Security Committee today approved a bill that includes two critical measures sponsored by Congresswoman Laura Richardson to strengthen port security.
"I have met with many ports authorities and port security grant recipients who have expressed to me their frustration with current rules that hamper their ability to maximize port security," said Congresswoman Laura Richardson. "I agree with these port experts that it does not make sense to require grant recipients to fix security equipment when it may be cheaper to replace it with newer improved technology," said Congresswoman Richardson.
The Congresswoman's Port Security Equipment Improvement Act was accepted as an amendment to the SMART Port Security Act (H.R. 4251). By including this amendment Port Security Grant Program recipients will now be permitted the flexibility to determine whether it is more cost-effective to use funds to replace or maintain security equipment. Previously, Port Security Grant Program funds were to be used solely for maintenance of security equipment, but not for equipment replacement.
Congresswoman Richardson also successfully worked to include her Port Security Boots on the Ground Act (H.R. 5803) in Section 107 of the SMART Port Security Act. Because of this amendment security personnel costs will be permitted to be covered through grant funding. Currently, Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) funding cannot be used to fund statutorily-mandated security personnel costs yet this spending prohibition only exists for the ports.
"American ports should not have to bear the burden of protecting our most vital stream of commerce and source of American jobs on their own," said Congresswoman Richardson. "Instead, ports should be allowed to utilize PSGP grants to hire and pay current security personnel who are used to staff fusion centers, emergency operations, and counterterrorism posts," said Congresswoman Richardson.
The Congresswoman's proposal to amend the bill to include security personnel costs to be funded through grants passed with unanimous consent. To keep funding regulated, the amendment also places a cap on the amount of PSGP funding that can be used to pay security personnel costs. Payments will be limited to 50 percent of the total amount awarded to grant recipients in any fiscal year.
In the next 20 years, U.S. overseas trade, 95 percent of which enters or exits through the nation's ports, is expected to double. Because ports are the first line of defense at our sea borders, it is vital for maintenance and security enhancements to continue to take place at a swift and efficient speed.
"As the link between the land and the water, ports must continue to update and modernize their facilities, not only to accommodate this growth, but also to ensure congressionally mandated homeland security measures are in place and fully functioning, "said Congresswoman Richardson.
Congresswoman Richardson is a Democrat from California's 37th Congressional District. She is a member of the House Committees on Transportation & Infrastructure and Homeland Security and is chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response. Her district includes Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Watts, Willowbrook and Signal Hill.