RealNews

U.S. will release some port security cash

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security sent a mixed message Tuesday to lawmakers concerned about port security funding, promising to release one set of funds but warning that another might have to be used to meet cost over-runs in other areas. At issue were two sets of monies set aside by Congress to improve the security of the nation’s seaports — port security grant funds, and a separate pot of cash for a project called Operation Safe Commerce. Adm. James Loy, chief of the Transportation Security Administration, which was rolled into the Department of Homeland Security, told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security that the TSA’s budget for 2003 was, as he put it, “in a billion dollar hole” because of overspending. Loy warned that might mean the $58 million allocated by Congress for Operation Safe Commerce would not be used as intended. The nation’s 361 ports, and the 6 million cargo containers that pass through them every year, have long been regarded as the United States’ Achilles’ heel. Currently, customs authorities physically inspect only about 2 percent of containers, and officials say it would be hard to increase that significantly without drastically impacting the flow of commerce and hiring many, many thousands more inspectors. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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