Seaport security funding may be redirected
Seaport security funding may be redirected

Online Exclusive, May 30 2003

A $58 million program approved almost a year ago to strengthen security at the nation's three largest seaports has been delayed as officials consider redirecting the money to other areas of the budget.

The project would track cargo containers entering ports serving New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, says Adm. James Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who championed the program, fired off a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, expressing dismay that budget mismanagement was placing port security at risk. "I have no intention of watching your agency divert funds that are critically needed to ensure the security of our trade lanes in order to make up for the administration's irresponsible actions in this area," Murray wrote.

"An incident at one of our ports would have a devastating impact on our safety and the U.S. economy," Murray says. "We cannot ignore port security."

Operation Safe Commerce would spend $58 million to beef up security at the nation's three largest regional ports: New York and northern New Jersey; Los Angeles-Long Beach; and Seattle-Tacoma. Together, the three port areas take in about 75 percent of cargo containers entering the United States every year.

TSA spokesman Robert Johnson said officials expect to reserve some money for the cargo security initiatives, but said it was not clear how much.

Mick Shultz, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, told The Associated Press that funding from Operation Safe Commerce would be used to develop technologies to track containers from foreign ports to their final destination. Once operational, the system would alert law-enforcement and maritime agencies if someone should try to break into a container. Without federal financing, the projects are unlikely to go ahead, Shultz said.

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