Congress earmarks $2.4 billion for port security

Port security legislation approved by the House Homeland Security Committee this week authorizes $2.4 billion in grants to be awarded to high-risk ports over six years.

The grant money can pay for purchasing and upgrading security equipment, including IT products, to enhance terrorism preparedness. Eligible equipment is expected to include video surveillance systems, waterside surveillance vessels, vehicle inspection stations, closed-circuit telecommunications and access-control equipment for the main gate.

The Security and Accountability For Every Port Act, H.R. 4954, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.) also approves $600 million over six years to create regional maritime and cargo information-sharing centers involving the Coast Guard, the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The regional intelligence centers would do enhanced information-sharing, facilitate "day-to-day operational coordination" and facilitate incident management and response, the legislation states.

"Legislation that addresses the vulnerabilities of our ports is long overdue," Lungren and Harman said in a joint press release April 26, adding they're pleased the committee acted with a sense of urgency to bring the bill to the floor as soon as possible.

The legislation was approved by unanimous consent Wednesday and is expected to go to the House floor next week. The committee rejected a Democratic amendment that would have required physical inspections of all U.S.-bound cargo containers in foreign ports.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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