The Department of Homeland Security was established by H.R. 5005 when Congress realized that the initial approach in defending the U.S. from the threat of terrorists should be to ensure that our borders were secure, and because the longest borders in our country are our coasts, one of the first steps taken by Congress was to direct that the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard report to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The U.S. Customs Service is another of the primary enforcement agencies protecting the nation’s borders and was also directed to move to the new department. All told, some 22 existing government agencies and an estimated 170,000 employees were transferred to this new department because this new department was intended to have a clear and efficient organizational structure with four divisions. The order of importance was given as follows:
• Border and Transportation Security
• Emergency preparedness and response
• Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures
• Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection
The entire country took note of this dramatic realignment of departmental authority and reacted accordingly. Much attention was paid to the stress placed upon Border and Transportation Security, and port officials fully expected that proper attention would be paid to their, and the nation’s, vulnerable underbellies.
Earlier this week, however, in his address to the Information Sharing and Analysis Center Council, Mr. Jay B. Grant, director of the Port Security Council, was quoted as saying that America’s seaports, “have been virtually cast adrift by the federal government when it comes to homeland security spending”. Mr. Grant went on to say that. “The U.S. Coast Guard’s own conservative estimates say that $ 1 billion was needed in port security funding for fiscal 2005, with a multi-year estimate of $ 7 billion”. Although he suggested that the actual number could be as high as $ 15 billion, he noted that the fiscal homeland security bill just signed into law only authorized about one-third of the $ 400 million estimated to be the absolute minimum required to protect port facilities.
Mr. Grant had the gumption to say all the things that the rest of us have been holding back.
• He called homeland security spending for port security a “band-aid approach”.
• He cited the failure of Congress and the Administration to make the kind of effort that is needed to protect our ports.
• He said that U.S. seaport problems are national problems, not just problems for the maritime community because, “The ports are protecting America’s commerce pipeline”.
• He said that Washington may have overreacted on aviation security funding, and that,”Spending billions of dollars on programs making all airline passengers remove their shoes at airports … does not add any real value to fighting terrorism.”
• He said that the Department of Homeland Security should direct all its efforts to means-based risk analysis, ordering its priorities and spending its resources where the threat is most critical and where the challenge can be remedied. [Amen, Mr. Grant.]