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Public Statements

House Passes SMART Port Security Act

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, made the following statement on her legislation, H.R.4251, the Securing Maritime Activities through Risk-based Targeting (SMART) for Port Security Act. Miller's bipartisan legislation builds on the work of the 2006 SAFE Port Act to enhance risk-based security measures overseas before the threat reaches our shores, emphasizes a stronger collaborative environment between the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in sharing port security duties, and leverages the maritime security work of our trusted allies, while requiring the Department of Homeland Security to find cost savings. The SMART Port Security Act passed the House by a vote of 402 to 21 and now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Miller said:

"I'm absolutely convinced that the bill before the House today, the SMART Port Security Act, will tangibly enhance the nation's maritime security. We spend a lot of times as a nation and as a Congress focusing on security threats at the southern and northern borders, but we also need to remember that we have a very long maritime border that also deserves our attention. 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 Security Act builds on the work of the 2006 SAFE Port Act to enhance risk-based security measures overseas before the threat reaches our shores, emphasizes a stronger collaborative environment between CBP and the USCG in sharing port security duties, and it leverages the maritime security work of our trusted allies. If we learned anything after 9/11, is that we need to move from the need to know information to the need to share information.

"The Department 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 Shipper Programs, like the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-T PAT, where companies who make significant investments in their security reduces the amount of resources 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. Not only does this save CBP inspectors from the added burden of having to verify companies who participate in both programs, it also expedites commerce across our borders. And we really need to do this because of limited use of taxpayer dollars -- it's certainly makes fiscal sense as well.

"The American port worker, truck driver, and others who make port operations run smoothly are another critical maritime security layer. They are all required to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential's, or TWICs. These individuals have complied with the law and done their part; they've purchased a TWIC, in many cases traveled long distances to go to the enrollment center, not once, but twice, and undergone the background check. But the problem is that the U.S. Government has not done their part. The Department 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. In reality, the TWIC has become little more than an expensive "flash pass.' This bill will extend the validity of TWIC cards until the government upholds their end of the bargain and puts out a reader rule. The USCG 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 USCG cannot intrusively scan every truck, cargo container, or bulk shipment that comes into American ports -- it is not only cost prohibitive, but would cripple the just-in-time delivery system that 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 -- a key element of this bill. Smart, cost effective choices, have to be made that maximizes our resources while ensuring the security of our ports -- and by extension our way of life. This bill is a step toward smarter security that encourages the Department to be more efficient, better integrated, and more closely coordinated amongst its components, industry and international partners."

Specifically, H.R.4251:
* Reduces redundancies by allowing the Department to recognize other countries' Trusted Shipper Programs, in addition to allowing the USCG to recognize other governments' or organizations' port security threat assessments;

* Requires the Department to update the Maritime Operations Coordination Plan to enhance interagency cooperation;

* Seeks to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars by commissioning a report to study possible cost savings by having the USCG and CBP share facilities, as well as requiring CBP to use standard practices and risk-based assessments when deploying assets;

* Institutes changes to the Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) program to prompt the Department to install readers, improve efficiency for enrollees, and prevent unauthorized use.

* Requires the Department to develop a more in-depth strategic plan for global supply chain security with a focus on providing incentives for the private sector and measurable goals.

* Passed by voice vote from both the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security and the Full Homeland Security Committee.


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