At any moment a terrorist attack could incapacitate one of America’s seaports. These potential targets serve as hubs of commerce and trade crucial to the nation’s economy. In recent years, the need for improved port security has become profoundly obvious to not only savvy security professionals, but the average citizen. Unfortunately, finding a way to pay for much-needed upgrades has been sorely lacking. That is why the Security Industry Association (SIA) made fully funding the $400 million in Port Security Grants, authorized by the 2006 “Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act,” one of its top 2008 legislative priorities.

Grants for Post Security Improvements

Established in 2001 by the Department of Homeland Security, the Port Security Grant Program provides funds for port facilities to strengthen security and comply with new federal mandates. In 2006, Congress saw the program was severely under funded and that an attack on our ports would cause great loss of life, damage our energy supplies and infrastructure, and hamper our ability to move and supply American military forces. To rectify the situation, Congress passed the SAFE Port Act. This landmark legislation authorized $400 million annually for five years for port security grants.

The importance of this bill was underscored by congressional testimony offered by Susan Monteverde, vice president of The American Association of Port Authority’s (AAPA), who stated, “One of the key things impacting the ability of ports to keep up with their growing trade volumes is the high cost of hardening their facilities against terrorism. When the nation’s ports have to divert their limited resources to pay for security measures, it can impact their ability to make the necessary investments to handle the rising volume of trade.”

Increasing the Money Spent

Although the SAFE Port Act authorized $400 million for port security grants, in the FY2008 budget submission to Congress, President Bush only recommended the program be funded at $210 million. SIA worked aggressively with key members of Congress, such as Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), to build awareness of the challenges facing ports and the need for increased federal funds. As a result, the full $400 million was included in the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by Congress.

We are pleased that our efforts resulted in hundreds of millions in new grant dollars that can be spent on security products and services including fencing, CCTV and digital video devices, access control systems, explosive device mitigation equipment, and radiological or chemical detection devices. Most notably, the grant monies can be used to purchase equipment to implement the Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC).

SIA will continue to advocate for federal grant programs, like Port Security Grants, that help secure our nation’s critical infrastructure. These programs are not only good for the industry and the end users; they help keep our ports and the people living in the neighboring communities, safe from terrorist attack. To learn more about SIA’s government relations activities, visit www.siaonline.org