Senators Request Accounting Examniation

By John McCormick  |  Posted 2003-09-09 Print this article Print

Money Time

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told the Senate earlier this year that he had "substantial money" to deal with port security and other defenses.

However, some other high-profile solons in Washington, including Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., feel seaport security is getting short shrift.

Hollings and McCain are so concerned that in May they requested a fresh General Accounting Office examination.

According to a letter the two wrote at the time: "The Coast Guard has estimated that it will require over $6.6 billion over the next 10 years for private port facilities alone to meet the baseline mandates, which will be final in October, in the new federal port security laws. The administration has awarded less than $500 million over the last two years." The mandates refer to new Coast Guard regulations that require each port complete a vulnerability assessment, control access to its facilities, deploy security monitoring devices, and set up systems to check passengers and baggage coming into a port.

Read the Senators letter on inadequate seaport security funding and other required reading.


While $6.6 billion might seem like a robust sum, its not that big an amount for a nationwide security project. The U.S. government budgeted $10.6 billion this year and last for aviation security, and, according to estimates, is spending close to $1 billion a week trying to police Iraq and build a democratic Persian Gulf state. With just a fraction of that, Boyle could do a lot.

He could send a whole fleet of unmanned monitoring ships into the Oakland harbor; ensure screening of every container that comes through his port, link the port and shipping company terminals into the Oakland Police Department, and even establish the camera network around San Francisco Bay, so that he and Oaklands other seaport guardians could watch everything that moves man or material over water at any time.

But, to date, he hasnt found a way to foot the bill.

"I think [the federal government] is just trying to get the money spread out as far as possible, to cover the most risks possible—to establish basic systems and some consistent level of security they can rely on," he says. "There are too many ports, too many entities, and not enough money."


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