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Securing Maritime Activities Through Risk-Based Targeting for Port Security Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. I certainly want to thank the chairman for his support of the bill, and I thank the gentleman for yielding the time as well.

Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 4251. I'm absolutely convinced that the bill before the House today, the SMART Port Act, will tangibly enhance the Nation's maritime security.

We spend a lot of time, as a Nation, and as a Congress, focusing on security threats at the southern border and on the northern border, but sometimes we also need to remember that we have a very long maritime border that deserves our attention as well.

A major disruption at one of the Nation's ports, especially a terrorist attack, is a high-consequence event that has the potential to cripple the global supply chain and could severely damage our economy. We simply cannot afford to ignore threats to our Nation's maritime security.

To that end, SMART Port builds on the work of the 2006 SAFE Port Act to enhance risk-based security measures overseas before the threat reaches our shore. It emphasizes a stronger collaborative environment between the Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard in sharing port security duties, and it leverages the maritime security work of our trusted allies.

If we learned anything after 9/11, it's that we need to move from the need-to-know information to the need-to-share information. The Department of Homeland Security components with shared jurisdiction must cooperate in maritime operations and form partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies in order to improve the Nation's maritime security.

What happens in our waterways and ports affects the entire Nation, so it is incumbent on us to realize that maritime security is not the province simply of the government alone. Leveraging partnerships with private industry, as well as our international partners, is common sense; and trusted-shippers programs, like the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or the C-T PAT, where companies who make significant investments in their security, reduces the amount of resources that CBP needs to spend on looking at cargo shipments that we know the least about.

Our trusted allies, like Canada and the European Union, have programs similar to C-T PAT in place, and this bill supports the concept of mutual recognition where the Secretary can accept other countries' trusted-shipper programs when they provide an equal level of security. And not only does this save CBP inspectors from the added burden of having to verify companies who participate in both programs. It also really expedites commerce across our borders, and we really need to do that because of limited use of taxpayer dollars, certainly. And so it makes fiscal sense, as well, to do that.

The American port worker, truck driver, and others who make port operations run smoothly are another critical maritime security layer. They're all required to obtain the TWIC cards that the ranking member just mentioned here, and the chairman as well. These individuals have complied with the law. They've done their part. They've purchased a TWIC card. In many cases they've traveled long distances to go to the enrollment center, maybe not once but twice, and undergone the background check. But the problem is that the United States Government has not done its part.

The Department of Homeland Security has yet to release the TWIC reader rule, meaning that the biometric information embedded on the card validating the worker's identity just isn't being confirmed. And in reality, because of that, the TWIC card has become little more than an expensive ``flash pass.''

This bill will extend the validity of TWIC cards until the government upholds its end of the bargain and puts out a reader rule. The Coast Guard and TSA must produce the TWIC reader rule which is necessary to give American workers and port facilities certainty after years of delay.

As well, we should be cognizant of the fact that CBP and the United States Coast Guard cannot intrusively scan every truck, every cargo container or bulk shipment that comes into American ports. It's certainly cost prohibitive, but it would also cripple the just-in-time delivery system that the industry relies on to keep American commerce running.

Instead, I believe that the security of the supply chain is maximized through the use of a risk-based methodology, which is a key element in this bill. Smart, cost effective choices have to be made that maximize our resources while ensuring the security of our ports and, by that, our extension of our way of life.

This bill, Madam Speaker, is a step toward smarter security that encourages DHS to become more efficient, better integrated, and more closely coordinated amongst its component industry and international partners.

Again, I want to thank the chairman, Chairman King, for his support of this bill, and Ranking Member Thompson of the full committee, and certainly my counterpart on the subcommittee as well, Ranking Member Cuellar.

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