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Pallone Urges G.A.O. to Investigate Port Security Funding Concerns Highlighted in I.G. Report

Location: Washington, DC

February 28, 2005

Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today called on the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the improper allocation of port security funds by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The New Jersey congressman's request follows a recent report by the DHS Inspector General (IG) that showed that high risk ports, like those in New Jersey, have not been given priority in the federal grant process, that private firms have received funding over public ports, and that the majority of available port security funds remain unspent.

In a letter to GAO Comptroller General David M. Walker, Pallone called for a three-part investigation into DHS port security grant procedures, including: (1) why the department does not currently use a threat-based analysis to determine priority for grants; (2) why private, profit-based businesses received grants before public agencies; and (3) why funds allocated by Congress for port security remain unspent when the need still exists.

"Right now, while New Jersey's ports realistically face a terror threat greater than that of other port structures around the country, this threat level is not factored into the allocation process," Pallone wrote in the letter to Comptroller General Walker. "This simply does not make sense. We need to know why this administration is not securing our ports, in order to reverse course and secure them in New Jersey, New York, and around the nation."

In the letter, Pallone also expressed his concern that, according to the IG report, of the $515 million already allocated for port security by Congress, only $107 million, or 20 percent, has been spent.

"I simply cannot believe that the department is not spending all the money it has appropriated to shore up our ports," Pallone wrote. "If the funding is not getting to the right facilities fast enough, how can we possibly protect our infrastructure from attack?"

In a separate letter today to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Pallone asked the secretary to immediately address the flaws in the port security grant process and informed the secretary of his call for the GAO investigation.

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