The Department of Homeland Security’s port and maritime security-related activities fall across a number of agencies, including the Coast Guard, CBP, Science and Technology, and Grants and Training within the Preparedness Directorate. Key items that are cited in the budget request include:
- $6m in new funds for the National Targeting Center, which assesses the risk of cargo inbound to the United States.
- $12m to deploy new personnel to seaports to staff Radiation Portal Monitors.
- $4.8m for a new Coast Guard-led Maritime Security Response Team.
- $6m for investments in Maritime Domain Awareness and $11.2m for the Nationwide Automatic Identification System
- Funds within the $600m Targeted Infrastructure Protection (TIP) program for port security grants.
The budget request does not include information on proposed funding levels for key port and maritime security programs such as the Container Security Initiative and the Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism. These are odd omissions, given their prominence in prior budget documents.
Last year Congress rejected the TIP proposal, and instead funded grants on a sector-by-sector basis. The port security grant issue is likely to be contentious again in the appropriations process. for FY 2007. Indeed, the American Association of Port Authories held a press conference on Tuesday to criticize the budget, as noted in this very informative story at Federal Computer Week. At the press conference, the head of the South Carolina Ports Authority discussed the funding that they’ve received from DHS:
But Bernard Groseclose, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) and AAPA chairman, said the grants program has been drastically underfunded despite the need to meet certain federal security requirements. The current level of funding for the program is $175 million. He said federal funds, which are supposed to pay for a larger share of security improvements, have only matched a small portion of what ports have spent on security so far.
For example, SCPA has spent $12.4 million on security at its Charleston, S.C., port since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but none of it was reimbursed through the grant program, according to documents AAPA provided. South Carolina port officials estimate capital expenditures of $33 million on security improvements over the next couple of years, but it has received only $11.5 million to date. Like other ports, SCPA has imposed surcharges on its customers to help pay for additional costs.
Overall, I don’t think enough is being done to improve port security, and you can make a solid case, based on the Coast Guard’s $7.3 billion estimate of MTSA implementation costs, that funding for port security grants should be increased. But it’s also clear that the ports themselves should bear some of the costs, because many security investments also bring them related economic benefits such as decreased crime and theft, or enhanced efficiency.
Hopefully DHS will provide a complete overview of its port and maritime security spending plans in the coming days.