Senators Collins, Lieberman Request $400 Million to Help Secure Nation’s Ports

In a letter to the President, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), today requested $400 million in port security grants be included in the Administration’s FY 2008 budget request. On October 13th, the President signed into law the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006, which authorizes $400 million in port security grants.

The following is the full text of the letter, which is also signed by Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to request that you fully fund the $400 million in port security grants that are authorized by the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 in your FY 2008 budget proposal.

Our ports are vital centers of commerce that are vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks. An attack at a U.S. port could cause great loss of life, damage our energy supplies and infrastructure, cripple retailers and manufacturers dependent on incoming inventory, and hamper our ability to move and supply American military forces.

To respond to this threat, Congress passed the SAFE Port Act in September and you signed the bill into law shortly thereafter. This legislation was a monumental accomplishment that will make our nation’s ports and the international supply chain more secure. It authorizes important programs, such as the Container Security Initiative and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, that will help push out America’s borders to prevent terrorist weapons from reaching our shores. The Container Security Initiative does so by deploying American inspectors to dozens of foreign ports to screen cargo before it departs those ports. And the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism seeks to prevent terrorist weapons from reaching America by encouraging importers and shippers to adopt container security practices that ensure that terrorist weapons are not introduced into their containers.

Equally important to our security as these international supply chain security programs, are the port security grants that are authorized by the SAFE Port Act. The bill authorizes $400 million in port security grants, which is more than double the amount that the Department of Homeland Security awarded last year in port security grants. These grants will be awarded based on risk through a competitive process. The grants can be used to enhance security to address identified vulnerabilities, conducting exercises and training, and establishing and enhancing mechanisms for sharing terrorist threat information with Federal, State, and local agencies. This is a major commitment of resources, but it is fully proportional to what is at stake, and a priority that we can no longer continue to ignore.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you.