Skip to content

News Release
FOR RELEASE - July 6, 2016
Contact: Aaron Ellis, Public Affairs Director,

American Association of Port Authorities
Phone: (202) 792-4033

Port Security Director To Testify At Nuclear Smuggling Risks Hearing

Joint hearing examines security threats at U.S. ports

The threat of terrorist smuggling at U.S. ports appears to be increasing.  Mechanisms to prevent cyber terrorism and illegal nuclear materials from being trafficked through ports must be intensified. Port Security Grant funds continue to help address these threats, but they must be directed to ports and not diluted out to other law enforcement entities that focus on lower-risk endeavors. And, increasingly, U.S. ports need more Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel, not fewer, to counter these risks.

These are the “take-away” messages that the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)—the unified and recognized voice of seaports in the Americas—hopes to instill when Maryland Port Administration Security Director Dave Espie testifies tomorrow (Thursday, July 7) on behalf of the association. Mr. Espie will explain to a joint hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, that maritime nuclear smuggling “could ultimately impact the safety and security of the United States if not addressed in a cohesive and expedited manner.”

Mr. Espie is a retired FBI agent and former National Security Agency Special Agent. In his testimony, he will explain the need for sound diplomatic relationships with nations that cooperate with the U.S. to secure their own nuclear materials, and the need for them to assist in countering ambitions of other nuclear countries intent on inflicting harm with their fissionable materials. He will also encourage Members of Congress to continue funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Port Security Grant program by directing grants to ports and to give those ports authority to distribute grant funds to other policing agencies that will use the money for its intended purpose.  Finally, he will ask that CBP assign more than 1 percent of its new hires to seaports, which was the approximate staffing ratio of CBP new hires to ports in fiscal year 2015.

In his prepared statement, Mr. Espie will testify, “Our nation’s strategy to prevent maritime nuclear smuggling must utilize a holistic approach.” He will go on to say that this should incorporate diplomatic engagement, utilize intelligence community assets (human, cyber and technical), focus on port security protocols (both federally mandated and those imposed by port operators), increase Port Security Grant funding to ensure ports are brought up to and remain in federal compliance, and appropriately invest in federal agencies like CBP to ensure current and future legislative mandates are properly executed.

Last week, the House Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade, and Security (PORTS) Caucus sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, urging him to allocate more resources to address CBP staffing shortages at U.S. seaports. Led by Representatives J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), and PORTS Caucus co-chairs Ted Poe (R-TX) and Janice Hahn (D-CA), the letter was signed by 47 Members of Congress. 

About AAPA
Founded in 1912, AAPA today represents 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and more than 200 sustaining and associate members, firms and individuals with an interest in seaports. According to IHS World Trade Service, combined international sea trade moving through Western Hemisphere ports in 2014 totaled 3.48 billion metric tons in volume and US$3.75 trillion in value. Of that total, ports in Central and South America handled 1.68 billion metric tons of cargo valued at US$1.36 trillion, while North American ports handled 1.79 billion metric tons of goods, valued at US$2.39 trillion. To meet the growing demand for trade, the AAPA and its members are committed to keeping seaports navigable, secure and sustainable.  For more information, visit

# # #