Testifying on behalf of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), Port of Long Beach Security Director Randy Parsons told the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security that the association has a fundamental philosophical difference with the Administration over its proposed National Preparedness Grant Program legislation, which would move seaport security grants from the federal to the state level. The current federal security grants program provides funding for crucial port authority security initiatives throughout the U.S.
Parsons, who heads up security for the nation’s second-busiest container port and who serves as co-chair of AAPA’s Port Security Caucus, said the Administration’s proposed preparedness grants program authorization bill doesn’t properly address AAPA’s years-long discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages national preparedness grants. In those discussions, AAPA has repeatedly stated that moving the Port Security Grant Program to the state level would likely put our nation at greater risk for terrorism. That’s because increased competition for grants with emergency responder programs would result in decreased funding for seaport security.
“AAPA believes the authority to determine (port security) grants should continue to reside at the federal level, where the expertise exists,” stated Mr. Parsons. “We fear that if ports are ‘lumped’ into the larger Homeland Security equation—which calls for all funds to be distributed through the states—efforts to date will be marginalized and the focus on ports will be lost.”
Port security grants are typically used to help seaport facilities address federal mandates by agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Coast Guard. Often, state agencies aren’t even aware of these federal agency mandates and don’t have the expertise to determine risks to international borders such as ports.
“AAPA strongly believes that the responsibility for the grants should stay at the federal level, since border security—land, air and maritime—is a national, not a state, responsibility,” noted Mr. Parsons.