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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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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4251, the SMART Port Security Act, and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I'm pleased that the House is meeting today to consider H.R. 4251, the SMART Port Security Act. This bill includes a number of Democratic-sponsored provisions aimed at improving our Nation's maritime security.

Representative Loretta Sanchez authored a provision to strengthen the integrity of the TWIC program. Representative Laura Richardson authored language to allow port operators to use their grant funds for security provided by local law enforcement. Representative Clarke of Michigan authored a provision relating to northern border security.

H.R. 4251 also includes language modeled after a bill I introduced, H.R. 1105, to relieve the Nation's port and transportation workers from the hassle and expense of renewing their 5-year TWIC cards, given that DHS has not done its job to fully implement this security program.

Specifically, section 206 of this bill will relieve current TWIC holders, the men and women who work in our ports, from being required to secure new identification cards beginning in October 2012, given that DHS has not even issued a draft rule for biometric readers.

For the full security potential of the TWIC program to be realized, there must be readers installed at ports to match the biometric cards with the individuals presenting them. Since 2007, over 2.1 million longshoremen, truckers, merchant mariners, and rail and vessel crew members have undergone extensive homeland security and criminal background checks and paid a $132.50 fee to secure TWICs.

Since H.R. 4251 was considered by the full committee, DHS has taken positive steps to address the upcoming TWIC renewal predicament. Specifically, DHS recently announced that, starting this August, workers will be eligible for a 3-year TWIC renewal card at a discounted rate and with fewer visits to the enrollment center. While this is a positive development, more must be done.

The bill before us today allows workers to continue to use their TWICs for the next 2 years, while providing an incentive for DHS to move forward on readers as soon as possible.

I insert into the Record a letter we received today from Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, expressing their support for this bill and the provisions making commonsense changes to the TWIC program.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I am prepared to close.

I would note that my support for the SMART Port Security Act is rooted in not only the improvements in the TWIC Program but also in what it seeks to do in order to improve the coordination and cooperation between DHS's maritime components and strengthened procurement practices. This bill is the result of a bipartisan effort to strengthen the security of America's ports and waterways and to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security's maritime security efforts are as effective and efficient as practicable.

With that, Madam Speaker, I urge the passage of H.R. 4251, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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