WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Monday urged President Bush to follow up on his stated commitment to improve port security by backing a comprehensive Container Security Initiative, investing in the physical security of America’s ports, and accelerating the modernization of the Coast Guard fleet.
“Our 361 ports nationwide are Achilles’ heels in the domestic war against terrorism. With just 4 percent of the containers that come through them now inspected, it’s far too easy for dangerous materials, weapons, and people to slip into the country,” said Lieberman. “And despite the Bush Administration’s acknowledgment of the problem, the fact is that far too many urgent improvements are stuck at the dock.”
Lieberman, reacting to President Bush’s visit with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to the Port of Philadelphia, welcomed the temporary enhancements included in Operation Liberty Shield and the plans to purchase up to 700 new response boats, but said closing America’s port vulnerabilities demands a more serious and sustained commitment than the Administration has yet provided.
Lieberman said he would support the emergency appropriations amendment on port security likely to come to the Senate floor this week, and reiterated three major port security priorities, demanding a total of $2 billion in new funding, that he first highlighted in a major policy address February 14, 2003.
“The bottom line is that the President’s unaffordable, unfair, and ineffective tax cuts have put us in a fiscal straitjacket that prevents us from meeting too many urgent homeland security challenges. The American people realize that—and the it’s time for the President to make hard but necessary choices,” said Lieberman.
The proposals Lieberman highlighted today were initially made in a speech to the Anser Institute for Homeland Security and George Washington Elliot School for International Affairs at George Washington University, in which Lieberman announced that an additional $16 billion would be needed in next year’s budget to reinforce the President’s proposed homeland security budget.