House Panel Ups Ports Security Funds; Full House Wants More

Lambasting the Bush administration for lax protection at U.S. seaports, House lawmakers acted on Thursday to increase spending on port security by $448 million more than this year.

The money was part of a $32 billion spending plan for the Homeland Security Department.

Earlier this year, the administration was criticized for deciding to let the Dubai company DP World control some operations at six American ports. The company since has said it will sell its interests in U.S. ports to an American buyer.

"We have seen military-like incursions at the border, learned of potential vulnerabilities within port security and witnessed a massive failure in our nation's preparedness and response during Hurricane Katrina," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of a House Appropriations Committee panel that controls homeland security spending. "It has not been an easy year."

The panel voted Thursday to add the money.

In all, the House plan would spend $4.2 billion on ports security in the budget year that begins Oct. 1 — a 12 percent increase. The Senate has yet to write a similar bill.

The House measure includes:

—$2 billion for Coast Guard port and waterway security.

—$1.7 billion for cargo inspection and trade operations.

—$178 million for nuclear detectors.

—$139 million to expand security programs to 58 foreign seaports.

The plans would provide $200 million in port grants for security programs — half of what would be required annually under a port security bill the House overwhelmingly approved last week.

To see a copy of that bill, known as the SAFE Port Act, click here.

The spending plans also would provide nearly $20 billion for border protections, $3.2 billion for emergency responders, and $6.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster preparedness programs. It eliminates, for the second year in a row, a $1.3 billion administration plan to raise fees for airline passengers.