We are providing too much money in port security not to invest pennies to save dollars. DHS, through the CEDAP and SAVER Program, have provided a significant amount of financial assistance to first responders conducting objective assessments and validations on commercial equipment and systems. The programs also release these results along with other relevant equipment information to the community in an operationally useful form.
Since CEDAP’s inception in 2005, DHS has supplied an estimated 5,800 direct assistance awards worth more than $103 million to smaller communities nationwide. As part of the 2007 program, DHS provided $33.7 million to fund equipment and training for first responders. One of CEDAP’s very first evaluations was for night vision equipment used in a marine environment. Working with the Seattle Fire Department, the program interfaced with several small jurisdictions surrounding and protecting the port of Seattle. The success this type of evaluation provides a great platform to apply it to jurisdictions across America.
Early last year, I approached DHS officials hoping to find assistance in testing and evaluation for the ports as we began moving our security purchases from guns, guards and gates to more sophisticated technology that will require millions of dollars in security spending. The Port Security Council, working with America’s public ports, Congress and the Administration, had been successful in achieving significant amounts of assistance for the Port Security Grant Program and wanted to find ways to make prudent buying decisions.
The Department was eager to help and in March of 2007, DHS began the process of evaluating the port’s equipment priorities. This led DHS to publish an internal report based on a June focus group. The meetings with port security and law enforcement officials have lead the program to move forward in assisting ports with critically needed assessments. The first priorities identified were the TWIC credential readers and under water sonar equipment requirements. The agency has now engaged in assisting in those evaluations with FY’08 funds.
This is just the beginning of a needed relationship than can assist America’s ports and surrounding jurisdictions with up front technical assistance before they invest millions of dollars in equipment to protect our nation’s waterways and the critical infrastructure at our seaports.
The program started at $50 million and now is on the verge of extinction. We need to consider funding this program with at least $40 million a year, an amount that is equivalent to small potatoes in the overall scheme of things but is critically important if we are to make prudent buying decisions and learn how to properly use the equipment we purchase.
Currently, the House has eliminated funding for this program out of the FY’09 appropriations bill, labeling CEDAP and SAVER as duplicate programs, yet the Senate has $10 million slated. We all understand security spending needs to be scrutinized. This program, however, is one that passes the test and can hardly be considered as being duplicative. Hundreds of jurisdictions have benefited and the ports find it of great value. I urge Congress to continue this successful program. Being penny wise and pound foolish is not the best course of action.