Congress approves $3.4B for port security

Congress passed a $3.4 billion port security bill before adjourning Saturday that will send more funding and technology to the nation's ports.

The legislation, H.R. 4954, authorizes $400 million a year through 2011 for direct grants to ports, which can be spent on equipment and training.

The equipment covered includes communications gear that is interoperable with federal, state and local agencies; software to enhance terrorism preparedness; IT programs and software for information-sharing and for handling classified information; and surveillance and security equipment to protect critical infrastructure at the port.

The bill also requires the 22 largest ports to upgrade scanning for radiological materials in containers by 2008.

The legislation sets up regional interagency command centers that would coordinate information from the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies with state and local authorities.

The final version negotiated by House and Senate leaders did not include a $4.5 billion authorization for mass transit, freight and rail line security that had been included by the Senate. Several Democrats said the loss of that provision was a blow to mass transit security.

"This administration has not shown the same 'can do, will do' attitude toward mass transit and rail security that we've adopted toward aviation, and now port security," Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), said in a statement. "The terrorist attacks on rail and transit systems in Spain, London, and Mumbai should be enough evidence to convince the Republican-led Congress that U.S. rails are dangerously vulnerable."

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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