February 22, 2006- Dubai Port Decision Wake-Up Call for Port Security Legislative Action

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee released the following letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) requesting him to bring port security legislation to the floor immediately upon our return from the President’s day work period. 

Following is text of the letter:

                                                                                    Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Hastert:

We are writing to request that you schedule a vote on port security legislation immediately upon Congress’ return from the President’s Day work period. 

As you know, the $6.8 billion sale of the British port operator Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation to Dubai Ports World, a company backed by the United Arab Emirates, has significant national security implications and has generated a great deal of controversy. 

This concern is understandable given that two of the September 11th hijackers were from the UAE, the UAE was one of only three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban, and that ports operated by Dubai Ports World were used by the A.Q. Kahn network to ship nuclear material to Libya and North Korea. 

This deal has once again highlighted the issue of port security vulnerabilities in the United States.  But these concerns are not new.  This Congress and the Administration have a record of neglect on port security. 

The 9/11 Commission expressed grave concern about our port security vulnerabilities, writing, “Opportunities to do harm are as great, or greater, in maritime or surface transportation [compared to commercial aviation].  Initiatives to secure shipping containers have just begun.” 

Moreover, in its Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations issued on December 5, 2005, the bipartisan 9/11 Public Discourse Project gave the federal government a grade of D in the area of critical infrastructure risks and vulnerabilities assessment.  Despite the strong admonitions of the 9/11 Commission and the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, this Congress has repeatedly failed to address port security in a meaningful way. 

In April 2003, this Congress rejected the Obey Amendment to HR 1559, the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would have added a modest $250 million for port security grants.  Every Republican member of Congress present at the time voted to reject this amendment.  And just last year, this Congress voted down an amendment to HR 1817, the Homeland Security Authorization Act, that would have provided $28.4 billion for critical infrastructure security and required the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement new container security standards. 

Additionally, although twelve bills have been introduced since 2003 relating to port security, Congress has not acted on a single one, leaving millions of citizens vulnerable to a potential terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, President Bush has just sent to Congress a budget that eliminates the Port Security Grant Program – the only program of dedicated funding for port security – and folds it into a broader program where port security must compete with railroads, highways and other critical infrastructure, while under funding them all.  The Coast Guard, for example, estimates that it will require $5.4 billion to meet port security needs over the next 10 years, yet port security funds since 2001 amount to only $715 million – or only about $143 million a year. With the elimination of the Port Security Grant program, and the lack of support for this program from the President, we can expect that number to be even lower in the years ahead

We are encouraged that you have now acknowledged the critical importance of port security. But mere recognition of the problem is not enough.  Congress must bring this issue to the forefront and implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations immediately.  It is shameful those recommendations have sat on the shelf without action for two years.  But if any good can come from the current controversy, it can serve as a wake up call for Congressional action. 

We look forward to working with you to ensure that American ports are the safest in the world.  The most important thing to do is to block this transaction and immediately implement all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, turning the D in critical infrastructure into an A.  That is what the American people expect and deserve.                                                          

Sincerely,

Rahm Emanuel                                        Edward J. Markey
Member of Congress                                Member of Congress 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2006


 

CONTACT: Tara McGuiness(Markey)
202.225.2836
Kathleen Connery(Emanuel)
202.226.7639