April 4, 2003
Hollings loses bid to get port security funding
During its deliberations earlier this week over additional funding for the war in Iraq and homeland security, the Senate defeated an amendment by U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings to include $1 billion specifically to improve security at U.S. ports.
A release from Senator Hollings' office notes that the vote "was in direct contradiction to the Senate's unanimous agreement on February 21, 2003, to provide funding for port security as part of the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution."
Senator Hollings' amendment would have provided funding to help federal agencies, local law enforcement and port operators meet the new security mandates in the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which Hollings authored and was signed into law last November.
"Everybody talks about port security, but they don't do anything about it," said Senator Hollings, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, which oversees the nation's maritime system. "Every Republican and every Democrat committed to this funding just 12 days ago, but they weren't willing to put the real dollars behind that commitment. They just aren't taking this issue seriously."
In its $75 billion supplemental appropriations proposal, the Administration set aside $4.2 billion for homeland security needs, but only a small fraction of the funding was designated for domestic port security. The Coast Guard has estimated that it will require at least $1 billion per year for private port facilities to meet the baseline mandates in the new federal port security laws. Hollings says the continued delay in substantive funding has set ports months behind in their effort to secure the nation's maritime system.
"This supplemental request did not include the kind of funding that's going to be required to make our ports more secure over the long term, but this amendment would have gone a long way towards correcting that," said Senator Hollings following the vote. "We have to fund this. There's just no two ways about it. So we'll continue the fight. The travesty of the whole thing is that we're losing precious time. Had we included this in the supplemental, it would have been done immediately, and our ports would have had the resources necessary to tackle security aggressively. Now, who knows how long it will take."
During conference negotiations last fall on the Maritime Transportation Security Act, Sen. Hollings led Senate conferees in advocating for a guaranteed funding source for port security. Faced with inaction from the Bush Administration to fund port security efforts, Senate conferees proposed a user fee on cargo shippers, akin to the user fee on airline passengers utilized to fund aviation security. When members of the House Ways and Means Committee and other House conferees refused to fund port security improvements, Senate conferees agreed that the bill must be passed. While the Maritime Transportation Security Act, as passed, imposed an unfunded security mandate on the nation's ports, it directed the President to submit funding plans within six months of enactment.