The House of Representatives is poised to approve a homeland security bill Tuesday that incorporates two legislative bills 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 former chair and current Ranking Member and senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.
Congresswoman Richardson's Port Security Equipment Improvement Act (H.R. 5802), is incorporated in the SMART Port Security Act (H.R. 4251), bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), the Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. Congresswoman Richardson's legislation enables Port Security Grant Program recipients to have the flexibility to determine whether it is more cost-effective to use grant funds to replace or maintain security equipment. Previously, Port Security Grant Program funds were to be used solely for maintenance of security equipment regardless of whether it would be safer or more cost effective to replace rather than repair aging equipment.
The SMART Port Security Act also includes Congresswoman Richardson's Port Security Boots on the Ground Act (H.R. 5803). This legislation amends existing law to permit grant recipients to use grant funds to defray the cost of maintaining needed security personnel to safeguard the nation's ports. 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. "Ports are critical to the nation's economy and among the most attractive targets for those who wish to do our country harm. That is why I advocated so strongly in support of permitting port security grant recipients to use a portion of grant funds to hire and pay current security personnel to staff fusion and emergency operations centers, and counterterrorism posts. I am pleased that was I able to work successfully with my colleagues across the aisle to close this vulnerability gap." said Congresswoman Richardson.
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.
"Given the critical importance of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to the local and national economy, I am extremely grateful to be a member of both the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and the Committee on Homeland Security, the most important committees in the Congress when it comes to developing public policy to protect and promote the ports," said Congresswoman Richardson. "As the only member of the Southern California delegation to serve on both of these committees, I take seriously my responsibility to represent the interests of all the communities represented by delegation members."
The expected approval by the House continues Congresswoman Richardson's extraordinary string of legislative success in promoting, protecting, and securing the nation's ports during the 112th Congress.