WASHINGTON — A new lobby group for public and private maritime institutions is seeking a major increase in federal funds for port security, the head of the group said today in an interview (see GSN, May 13).
Funding would have numerous uses, including purchasing radiation detectors and protection of nuclear plants, said Director Jay Grant of the Port Security Council of America, whose founding was announced this week.
Grant said the council would seek an uptick in federal funds, which should then be used by ports and facilities near ports ― nuclear plants and oil refineries, for example ― for whatever improvements they need.
“We looked at it from the ports angle, initially ― that we needed to have the industry to start speaking with a single voice,” said Grant, a lobbyist who also represents several vendors of WMD-detection equipment for ports. “The whole idea was to get the stakeholders together so that we could start working with Congress on these issues,” he said.
The council was founded at the initiative of the American Association of Port Authorities, a coalition of public port authorities in the United States, Canada and Latin America. The other founding members are the Chamber of Shipping of America, an industry group; the International Council of Cruise Lines, whose members include the largest passenger cruise operators, according to the new port council; and the Waterfront Coalition, which represents importers and exporters.
Citing a Coast Guard estimate that more than $1 billion is needed for port security improvements this year, the council said it would seek to obtain “more federal funding for immediate port security requirements” and to “address the issue on a long-term basis to achieve necessary port-security capital requirements, which could run $5 billion to $10 billion over the next several years.”
Grant said the council would ask Congress to spend $400 million on port security in fiscal 2005, “only a fraction of what is needed.” According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, the Bush administration is requesting $50 million for port security grants in fiscal 2005, but the White House said in February that the budget proposal includes $1.9 billion "for DHS (Homeland Security Department)-wide port-security efforts."
“We are at a critical juncture,” International Council of Cruise Lines President Michael Crye said in a prepared statement, “in making the investment necessary to protect the U.S. ports and the commerce and people that flow through them. It is incumbent that we find a suitable funding mechanism for the protection of U.S. commerce into the future.”