Tuesday, July 12, 2005

John Kerry Works to Secure America's Ports

Senator John Kerry will offer an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill today that aims at fixing gaping holes in the agency's work to secure America's ports.

"Almost four years after September 11th, our port security is in alarming shape, and the attacks on soft targets in London are a chilling reminder why there is no time to wait. The Administration has been asleep at the switch while shipload after shipload of cargo slips into our ports uninspected. We've spent more on the Capitol Visitors' Center than on the Port Security Grant Program. The Department of Homeland Security's own Inspector General said that only a fraction of the money awarded for port security grants has actually been spent, and much of what has been spent has been badly mismanaged. We have to fix this mess, fix it right away, and hold the administration accountable for getting this right," said Senator Kerry.

Kerry's amendment will require the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on the department's progress implementing 12 recommended changes to improve the department's port security grant program.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General issued a report criticizing the department's management of the Port Security Grant Program, saying there is "no assurance that the program is protecting the nation's most critical and vulnerable infrastructure and assets."

The Inspector General found that many of the projects that received funding lacked merit, the program's bureaucracy prevented money from getting to the most vulnerable ports and that available assessments of ports' infrastructure and vulnerabilities were not used effectively.

Among the most serious revelations:
* Of the $564 million awarded for port security grants since 2002, only 21 percent, or $106 million, has actually been spent.
* 82 of 86 project applications submitted in 2003 were found by a review board to lack merit. All received funding.
* In 2003, only one staff member oversaw the grant program. 811 projects were funded that year.

Updated: At a Democratic press conference on Homeland Security, Kerry called for Rove to be fired. Read the press release here. Kerry is Turning up the Heat on Rove - Rove has To Go.


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