Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Port Security

By Teresa Anderson


According to Bersin, DHS would have to seek extension on the 2012 deadline. “DHS would need significant resources for greater manpower and technology, technologies that do not currently exist, and the redesign of many ports.”

Also testifying before the committee, Stephen L. Caldwell, director of homeland security and justice issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), discussed a report on maritime security. In DHS Progress and Challenges in Key Areas of Port Security, the GAO noted that the SFI program is hampered by equipment breakdowns and the feasibility of screening 100 percent of cargo. In 2009, the GAO recommend that the DHS conduct a feasibility analysis to determine whether the program can meet current goals. DHS agreed, according to the GAO, but has not conducted such a study.

Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert J. Papp, spoke about his agency’s contribution to port security. Part of this contribution is administering the vessel and facility security plans required under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 and enforcing the Transportation Workers Identification Credential program. While Papp was positive about the Coast Guard’s role in protecting ports, he did note that “opportunity remains to strengthen partnerships, improve maritime domain awareness through…interagency cooperation, enhance public vigilance, and refine collaborative security regimes.”

Caldwell agreed with this assessment. Specifically, Caldwell noted that the Coast Guard has faced challenges in implementing tracking systems around ports. According to the GAO report, vessel tracking systems are unable to track small vessels, leaving ports vulnerable. In 2000, al Qaeda militants used a small boat laden with explosives to suicide attack the U.S.S. Cole anchored in the port of Aden. Seventeen sailors died. 

♦ Photo by biofriendly/Flickr


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