May 11, 2007

CARDIN, MIKULSKI CRITICIZE UNDERFUNDING OF NATION'S PORTS

We are fighting a global war on terror and we need to keep our ports safe, but the port security grant program is continually underfunded

Susan Sullam: 410-962-4436


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Benjamin J. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski(both D-Md.) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff today, questioning the lack of funding for the nation's port security. The Senators are particularly critical of funding for Maryland's Port of Baltimore, which is one of 17 second-tier ports (based on a DHS risk assessment) that had to compete for a share of $40 million provided this year. According to today's DHS announcement of allocations for state infrastructure grants, the Port will only receive $1.9 million in federal funding, down from $4.8 million last year.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

We are extremely concerned that port security funding for the Port of Baltimore has been cut by 60 percent, from $4.8 million in 2006 to $1.9 million this year. Since 9/11, we have a new world order. We are fighting a global war on terror and we need to keep our ports safe, but the port security grant program is continually underfunded.

The Port of Baltimore is an economic engine for Maryland and for America. It is responsible for 42,000 maritime related jobs and more than $6 billion in revenue for our state. Keeping our Port and our people safe from terrorism is one of our top priorities. But we can't keep our Port safe without the proper assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.

We have been fighting to upgrade and protect our Port for more than 20 years. As members of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, we have increased port security funding but the president's budget cut the program by nearly 50 percent.

While we strongly believe that homeland security grants should be distributed based on risk, we have some questions concerning the distribution of port security grants. We would like to better understand why the Port of Baltimore is categorized as a tier two port given its proximity to the nation's capital as well as major population centers. Further, we see that eight tier one ports received approximately $121 million while seventeen tier two ports received only $40 million. We would like to know what criteria determined the Department's allocation of resources between tiers.

How will you ensure that our ports are safe with these limited resources? How can ports implement their security plans, improve infrastructure, and upgrade technology when federal funds are insufficient and inconsistent from year to year?