The SAFE Port Act will be signed into law this morning at the White House. The final bill ended up being something of a mess, with provisions related to emergency mobile communications and online Internet gambling tacked onto it in the conference process, because the bill was one of the last trains leaving the station before the election. It’s also notable that all but one (Sen. Baucus) of the Democratic conferees from the Senate apparently did not agree to the final conference report – their names are not found at the end of it – perhaps because of the attachment of these unrelated measures to the final bill.
But the core of the bill – the part that focuses on port and cargo security – remains solid, and will play a strong and positive role in improving port and cargo security in the United States and around the world. It will strengthen existing programs such as CSI and C-TPAT. It will spur DHS to move forward on cargo security standards and new screening technologies. It will authorize funding for key programs. And it will drive DHS towards a more strategic approach to port and cargo security, aligning the motley assortment of programs that exist today into a coherent, interconnected strategy.
All of these outcomes will, at the margins, make our ports and seaways more secure – and for that, the members of Congress can be proud of their work on this bill. It’s a shame that it wasn’t possible for the Congress to apply the same bipartisan, fact-driven ethos to their work on chemical plant security this year, but hopefully DHS will take the limited mandate they’ve been given and use it aggressively and expediently.