Lautenberg touts increased money for port security
By DAVID PORTER
A homeland security appropriations bill being considered by Congress would increase money for port security, save a threatened Coast Guard program from elimination and establish harsher penalties for anyone who intentionally violates airport security rules.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, discussed provisions of the bill Tuesday at Port Newark, an area he said the FBI has described as “the most inviting terror target in the country.”
“This area is the lifeblood of the region’s and the nation’s economy,” Lautenberg said. “There is great potential for harm here.”
Among the funding levels contained in the bill, which the Appropriations Committee approved last week:
– $350 million for port security, an increase of $50 million over last year;
– $350 million for rail, bus and transit security, a $38 million increase;
– $9 billion for the Coast Guard, a $221 million increase over last year and $278 million more than President Obama’s budget request;
– $21.8 million to maintain five Coast Guard Marine Safety and Security Teams, one of which covers the New York-New Jersey ports.
The Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal 2011 budget had called for the elimination of the five teams, which can provide air, sea or ground surveillance, guard areas considered threat targets and board suspect ships.
Responsibility for New York and New Jersey would have shifted to regional Coast Guard teams based in Boston and Chesapeake, Va.
The bill also increases funding of the Transportation Security Administration by $415 million, to $5.7 billion. It directs the TSA to improve security at airport terminal exit lanes and provides $6 million for surveillance cameras at airport checkpoints and exits.
Those measures are a response to a security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport last January in which a Chinese graduate student slipped under a rope and entered a terminal through a restricted exit lane. The breach shut down the terminal for hours and created massive delays.
It was later discovered that surveillance cameras nearby had stopped working, unbeknownst to security personnel.
The appropriations bill would establish a maximum criminal penalty of 10 years and a fine up to $10,000 for intentionally breaching airport security. Haisong Jiang, the man responsible for the Newark airport breach, pleaded guilty to defiant trespass, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 100 hours’ community service.
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