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Safe Shipping

Ensuring the security of our ports is an essential component of securing the borders against potential terrorist attacks.

In the six years since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration used its “tough on terrorism” stance as a mandate for the invasion of Iraq, the rollback of civil liberties, and other policies that have left the American people less free and ultimately less safe.

The administration has meanwhile neglected to adequately address fundamental security concerns here at home, especially with regard to securing our ports, airports, and borders from potentially hazardous cargo. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this morning holds a hearing on the security of our nation’s ports that will review the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s several port and cargo security programs.

The Bush administration’s approach to port security has fallen short. The Marine Transportation Security Act as it currently stands wrongly assumes that all ports, vessels, and facilities, were equally vulnerable to attack, and it does allow for risk-based assumptions that would provide additional security to key ports and vessels. The act’s security measures have not been adequately funded, giving little support to private and municipal efforts to comply with MTSA’s standards and asserting that security standards should be voluntary, not mandatory.

In the report “New Strategies to Protect America: Safer Ports for a More Secure Economy,” Center for American Progress detailed a plan to make our ports more secure. A progressive policy for port security would

  • Revise Coast Guard regulations and amend the MTSA of 2002 to emphasize risk assessments based on threat and potential consequences of an attack.
  • Increase attention to risk mitigation, preparedness and continuity of operations so the maritime transportation security system could recover quickly in the event of a terrorist attack (This would reduce the economic effects of a severe disruption and thereby deny attackers a strategic goal).
  • Expand the Port Security Grant Program, increasing annual funding to at least $500 million per year to eliminate the disconnect between strategy and action.
  • Establish a national port security trust fund from customs revenue collected on goods moving through ports to ensure the long-term sustainability of maritime transportation security.

On Sept. 11, 2001, this country saw such mundane objects as office buildings fall victim to global instability and terror. Since then, security has moved to the forefront of domestic and foreign policy. We cannot wait for the urgency of afterthought again. Congress must take concrete and proactive action to protect, regulate, and fund potentially life-saving legislation now.

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