Safe and secure seaports are fundamental to protecting our borders and moving goods. Maintaining federal support and control of seaport security is critical to ensuring our nation’s homeland security. Protecting critical transportation assets like seaports from cyber threats is vital. AAPA works closely with Congress and partners with federal agencies to ensure that funding and policy issues are in place to keep our nation’s ports and adjoining communities safe.
The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) continues to be very valuable for U.S. ports, which serve as partners with the Department of Homeland Security to harden security and protect our homeland.
AAPA continues to urge Conress to increase the authorization and appropriation levels for the program back to where they once were, at $400 million. AAPA is concerned that recent dramatic cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) non-disaster grant program funding, including the PSGP, will threaten the ability of our nation to maintain our current level of security or expand upon it.
AAPA believes that all ports should continue to be eligible for these grants, which serve as aids in protecting this country from terrorist and other criminal attacks. Further, grant funding for port security should be a separate line item and controlled at the federal level.
Another component of port security is staffing for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). More resources are needed to address CBP staffing shortages at our nation’s seaports. In order for America’s international gateways to function more efficiently, effectively and safely, CBP must be adequately funded and staffed. Our nation’s ports are in partnership with CBP in securing our supply chain and providing vital support in moving freight safely through our ports and out on to the national freight network.
Each year, roughly $1.4 billion tons of foreign trade cargo, including more than 11 million maritime containers, arrive at our seaports. Additionally, over 11 million international passengers begin their cruises via U.S. seaports. CBP is on the front line when cargo and passengers enter our country. CBP officers meet the ships at all ports of entry to check the manifests, screen incoming cargo, operate non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment, including radiation portal monitors, provide specialists to examine imported fruits, vegetables and flowers for potentially harmful diseases, and other missions at our busy gateways. CBP is also responsible for screening all foreign visitors and returning American citizens and passenger ships that enter U.S. seaports.
There are many issues surrounding port security, and many federal laws, rules, programs, and other policies implicated in the protection of ports. Recent webinars, testimonies and letters are listed as a resource for exploring this important topic.