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Ms. RICHARDSON. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the SMART Port Security Act, H.R. 4251. I'm a proud cosponsor of Chairwoman Miller's legislation and commend her for her efforts on this important issue to our Nation.
At a time when media reports assume that Congress doesn't work together, I'm pleased to note that I've been able to work with Chairwoman Miller and the committee in a bipartisan fashion to have two of my bills incorporated into the SMART Port Security Act.
As the senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, and the Representative of a district neighboring the ports of both Long Beach and Los Angeles, the largest in this country, I have made port security a priority of mine.
Ports are the first line of defense at our sea borders and serve vital national interests by supporting the mobilization and deployment of U.S. troops, facilitating the flow of trade, and supporting our economy. Ninety-five percent of all goods entering or exiting our country go through our Nation's ports, and 45 percent of those actually go through the community I represent.
In the next 20 years, U.S. overseas trade is expected to double; and in light of the terrorist attacks on September 11 in 2001, heightened awareness about the vulnerability of all modes of transportation to terrorist acts are a priority of us on this committee.
Included in the SMART Port Security Act are two pieces of legislation I authored, Port Security Boots on the Ground Act and the Port Security Equipment Improvement Act. Both of these bills involve the use of existing port security grant funds.
The Port Security Grant Program provides funding to port authorities, facility operators, and State and local government agencies so that they can provide security services to our ports. However, prior to my introduced legislation, port security grant funds could not be used to fund statutorily mandated personnel costs.
My Port Security Boots on the Ground Act, which was incorporated into H.R. 4251, corrects this inconsistency between Port Security Grant programs and other grant funding programs. To prevent the possibility of waste, fraud and abuse, the amount of security personnel costs awarded are limited to 50 percent of the total grant amount in any fiscal year.
The Maritime Transportation Security Act and the SAFE Port Act authorize funds to identify vulnerabilities in port security and to ensure compliance with mandated port security plans. My legislation made these funds workable and removed government red tape from State, local, and government entities.
I thank Chairwoman Miller for including my Port Security Boots on the Ground Act in this important legislation.
The second inclusion that also should be highlighted is the Port Security Equipment Improvement Act, which was accepted by unanimous consent as an amendment to H.R. 4251 during the full committee markup. The Port Security Equipment Improvement Act gives recipients of Port Security Grant Program funds the flexibility in determining whether it is more cost effective to repair or replace security equipment.
I have personally heard from many port authorities in my district and from those surrounding my area about their frustrations of not being given the opportunity to purchase newer and improved security equipment. This will give the recipients of the Port Security Grant Program funds the ability to fix or replace defective security equipment, thereby making the best use of limited resources.
I appreciate Congresswoman Candice Miller for working with me and for having both of my bills, the Port Security Boots on the Ground Act and the Port Security Equipment Improvement Act, included in the SMART Port Security Act legislation before us today. I look forward to continuing to work with the chairwoman, the committee and staff on protecting our ports. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in supporting the SMART Port Security Act.
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