The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) expressed concern today over the Obama Administration's proposed fiscal 2011 federal budget, particularly for funding key programs that help make the nation's seaports more navigable, efficient and secure. While the President called for a freeze on federal funding, the seaports association indicated its disappointment over cuts in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' deep-draft maintenance budget and lack of funding for a program that would promote moving more cargo onto America's waterways.
AAPA also indicated concern over the Administration's request to fund the federal Port Security Grant program at 25 percent less than Congress has authorized.
"Competitive, secure, navigable seaports are vital to the U.S. economy," said AAPA President Kurt Nagle. "Because development and maintenance of our federal navigation channels are critical for safe and secure access to America's seaports, AAPA is greatly disappointed with the Obama Administration's proposal to cut nearly 10 percent from last year's congressionally-approved budget for the Corps of Engineers' Civil Works Program."
The proposed Civil Works program cuts run counter to the Administration's goals to create new U.S. jobs and promote exports, said Mr. Nagle. In addition, the $767 million proposed to be drawn from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund next year to pay for maintenance dredging represents a reduction of 4.1 percent over last year's congressionally-approved amount. More importantly, importers and domestic shippers pay more than double this amount into the trust fund annually to pay for maintenance dredging.
"AAPA urges that the annual Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues that are collected specifically for maintenance dredging be fully used for this purpose only," said Mr. Nagle.
The Administration's budget request includes no funding for the America's Marine Highway Program, which Congress authorized last year and the Administration supported. This U.S. Department of Transportation initiative would help support establishment of short sea shipping routes along U.S. coastlines, helping to alleviate freight congestion from some of the country's busiest highways and create secure, efficient alternate routes in cases of national emergency.
With regard to seaport security, the Administration's budget request calls for flat funding, although the $300 million proposed would actually be a significant decrease in port security funding since Congress provided an additional $150 million last year for port security grants in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"AAPA supports the authorized level of $400 million for the Port Security Grant program and urges Congress to continue to make port security a priority by providing this level in 2011," said Mr. Nagle.
"Our nation's economic health and security depend largely on how well we can ensure deep-draft shipping access to our seaports in order to support exports and protect our ports against terrorism," Mr. Nagle concluded. "While this year's budget request for seaport-related programs is below what we had envisioned, we hope that the Administration and Congress will recognize and agree to fund them at the levels required."