Chairman Collins Urges DHS Deputy Secretary Nominee to Make Port Security, Investing in First Responders Top Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today praised Admiral James Loy, nominee for deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, for his efforts to improve America’s homeland security preparedness and urged him to make port security and investing in first responders and state and local homeland security efforts top priorities.

Senator Collins noted that as deputy secretary, Loy would face the difficult task of continuing to organize DHS. “Unifying 22 agencies and more than 170,000 employees is an extraordinary challenge. Secretary Ridge and his team are to be commended for their tireless efforts on what is a monumental undertaking. But there’s a seat at the helm that is empty, and I can think of no finer person to fill it than the nominee before us today,” she said.

Citing the vulnerability of the nation’s ports to terrorist attacks, Senator Collins urged Loy, a former Coast Guard Commandant, to focus on improving port security and reducing the chances for the exploitation of cargo shipping containers by terrorists. Experts who testified at a Governmental Affairs Committee hearing earlier this year said that a major incident involving a cargo container could bring the worldwide container system to its knees in a matter of weeks, along with the U.S. economy.

“Just one small lapse in security at our ports or at other points of entry can have disastrous consequences for our nation,” said Senator Collins. “While we have taken steps to protect our ports, it is clear that they are still ‘ripe for exploitation,’ as one security expert put it.”

Senator Collins also asked Loy to work with her to create an effective, coordinated homeland security grant system. Earlier this year, Senator Collins introduced the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act (S. 1245), which would provide a steady stream of homeland security grant funds to state and local governments and first responders, simplify the grant process, and promote flexibility in the use of those funds. Her bill was unanimously approved by the Committee in June.

“We must make sure our communities receive a long-term, steady stream of funding to prevent a future terrorist attack and to respond should one occur. The Committee already has approved legislation I introduced that provides a solid baseline of funding to each state but that allocates the majority of funding, more than 60 percent, to states based upon individual circumstances of risk, threat, and vulnerability. We hope you will work with us to enact this legislation into law,” said Senator Collins.

The Committee is expected to vote on Loy’s nomination on Thursday.