America’s seaports serve as centers of trade and commerce essential to the success of our economy, and their importance makes them an ideal target for terrorists. Unfortunately, finding a way to pay for much-needed security upgrades has been a significant challenge. That is why the Security Industry Association (SIA) has made port security funding one of its top 2009 legislative priorities.
The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) provides funds for ports to strengthen security and comply with federal mandates. However, according to the American Association of Port Authorities, between 2001 and 2005, only 20 percent of port security grant requests received funding.
Recognizing that an attack on our ports would cause great loss of life and damage our energy supplies and infrastructure, Congress passed the “Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006.” The legislation authorized $400 million annually for fiscal years 2007 to 2011 for the PSGP. Grant recipients may use awards for a variety of purposes, including the acquisition of fencing, CCTV and digital video devices, access control systems, explosive device mitigation equipment, radiological or chemical detection devices and identity management solutions such as Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) equipment.
The importance of this bill was underscored by congressional testimony offered by Susan Monteverde, vice president of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).
“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,” Monteverde said. “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.”
Over the past several years, SIA has led the security industry’s efforts to ensure that Congress provides full funding for the PSGP. These efforts resulted in full funding of $400 million for the program in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, President Obama recommended only $250 million for the PSGP in FY2010, far below the authorized funding level.
On May 26, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., sent a letter, at SIA’s request, to members of the House Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund the PSGP in the amount of $400 million for FY2010. Notably, Sanchez chairs the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee. The letter was also signed by 20 additional members of Congress.
We at SIA are pleased that our efforts have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in new grant money that can be spent on security solutions. We will continue to advocate for federal grant programs, like the PSGP, that help secure our nation’s critical infrastructure. These programs are not only good for the industry and end-users; they help keep the economic foundations  of our country and the people living in neighboring communities, safe from terrorist attack.