Despite the President’s budget to limit port security grant funding to $210 million for FY’09, the Senate passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Resolution last week (March 14) by a vote of 51-44. The Resolution rejects cuts proposed by the President’s 48 percent reduction for Port Security Grants and retains them at $400 million. The House passed its version of the Budget Resolution a day earlier, by a vote of 217-212. The legislation will now go to a House-Senate conference.
Originally, port security grant funding was not in the President’s budget but cam about out of a bipartisan effort to ensure security funding was a priority in the Congressional budget. This began in FY’03 with $125 million in appropriations, and Congress has slightly increased funding each year leading up to FY’08’s appropriation that included $400 million, as authorized in the 2006 SAFE Port Act.
To move the funding where it is today has not been an easy task. We now must focus to ensure the grant program can sustain our security levels by allowing certain maintenance and operation expenditures to be authorized as costs continue to increase.
The Port Security Council has been working with the Administration and DHS officials to ensure grant funds are targeted to risk mitigation projects, preparedness and recovery planning and training and exercise programs to protect our maritime domains. Ports are the gateway to American trade and it is the responsibility of the Nation to protect the ports, not just the local communities where the ports reside.
We have gone from a handful of Congressional Members understanding and supporting port security issues to a broad base of cooperation. We must continue to allow this issue to stay above partisan politics and provide the necessary tools required to achieve the new expectations of security at our Nation’s seaports.