Chertoff Discusses Port Security at AAPA Meeting
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff addressed members of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) this week in Washington, D.C. about current and future advances in port security in the United States and abroad.
The AAPA represents port authorities throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and conducts educational and training programs and provides research and information services for port professionals.
In his remarks, Chertoff addressed the widespread thought that port security officials are being negligent in their inspection practices.
“Some may say we are derelict because we don’t physically inspect every single container that comes into the country,” he said. “How many here want us to do that? We know that to do that would destroy the ports.”
Chertoff stressed that port security officials instead need to use a layered approach that caters to risk-management and cost benefit practices to select those elements in the container supply chain that may need a closer look, while letting the vast majority of flow go unimpeded.
“We do not believe in security at any cost,” he said. “We believe in risk management, which means looking at threats, vulnerabilities and consequences; weighing the risks; considering the measures we are looking to undertake, in terms of whether they are cost beneficial; and then weighing that in terms of making up a strategic plan.”
Chertoff also emphasized three critical areas of port security:
- keeping dangerous cargo out of the country and from entering U.S. ports through the Container Security Initiative and the Secure Freight Program;
- strengthening security of port infrastructure through grant funding, the work of the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection; and
- the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.
The DHS is also looking to install radiation detection equipment in six foreign ports. The equipment will scan cargo for radiological and nuclear emissions.
The DHS has requested $210 million in port security grants in fiscal year 2008, and Chertoff announced some of the grants that have already been issued.
The Port of New York has been awarded more than $77 million to secure facilities within its area, including $18 million to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to enhance surveillance capabilities and further harden facilities against attack.
In addition, the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach has been awarded more than $91 million for similar practices, including $8 million to construct a command-and-control center to support federal, state and local security personnel with around-the-clock surveillance capabilities.
“We continue to work with grant applicants to ask them to focus on key priorities and capabilities in their requests for money,” Chertoff said. “We want to fund projects that increase awareness in and around port areas; address the significant threat posed by improvised explosive devices through USS Cole-style attacks; expand training and exercises; implement the TWIC credential and access control process; and support our overall national preparedness priorities.”
Chertoff estimates that the TWIC program, currently in development, will issue tamper-resistant, biometric credentials to approximately 750,000 port workers over an 18-month period.
The TSA will conduct security threat assessments on all TWIC applicants, including checks against terror watch lists, immigration status checks and FBI fingerprint-based criminal background checks.
“We issued the first set of regulations for TWIC in January, and the rule becomes effective in a matter of days, after which we expect to begin enrolling port workers,” Chertoff said. “TWIC is going to have an immediate security benefit in terms of having a standard secure credential.”
Disaster planning and recovery are also at the forefront of DHS considerations, according to Chertoff, who concluded that interoperability between the government and port officials during a disaster is imperative.
“One lesson out of Hurricane Katrina is that planning is critical,” he said. “We have to plan ahead of time about how to resume operations, and that has to be a joint effort, one undertaken not only with the federal government, but with you who own the assets and employ the people who work in the ports.”
“We need to identify issues and develop alternative solutions for recovery of the marine transportation system after an incident, whether it be manmade or natural,” Chertoff remarked.
To read a transcript of Secretary Chertoff’s remarks, visit
Look for our cover story on port security in the April issue of
Government Security magazine, available in the coming weeks.