WASHINGTON – In response to concerns raised by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Tom Ridge announced Thursday that $105 million in port security grant funding will not be diverted to other programs.
During a committee hearing on May 1, Senator Collins voiced her concern to Secretary Tom Ridge about reports that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) was planning to divert a significant portion of federal port security funding to other security needs. The secretary assured her that $170 million in fiscal year 2003 port security funding would soon be distributed to the ports. However, he did not discuss $105 million in port security grants that were authorized in the 2002 supplemental appropriations bill. On May 16, TSA officials told congressional appropriators that they wanted to redirect the 2002 port security funding to aviation security.
In a June 3 letter to Secretary Ridge, Collins expressed concern about the reprogramming plan and questioned why the diversion had been proposed. Today, Ridge announced that the $105 million will be available for port security later this summer.
“I am pleased that Secretary Ridge has reconsidered TSA’s proposal to divert these critical port security funds. Failure to secure our seaports would leave a gaping hole in America’s defenses. The ports in Maine, like ports throughout the nation, are under tremendous pressure to meet new federal security requirements. It is vitally important that local port authorities receive all of the assistance that Congress has provided for them as quickly possible.”
On Tuesday, Senator Collins announced that the Maine Port Authority and the Port of Portland will receive nearly $2 million in federal grants from fiscal year 2003 to upgrade port security. The Port of Portland will receive $1,296,000, and the Maine Port Authority will receive $632,880.