In an annual event that has become as predictable as the tides, the nation's ports have raised an outcry about funding. Last month, leaders from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) held a press conference in Washington to protest funding provisions in President Bush's proposed 2007 budget.
The ports' primary concern is a Bush administration proposal to eliminate the Homeland Security Department's Port Security Grant program. Instead, it would lump seaports' security infrastructure needs with those of trains, trucks, buses and other public transit systems in a consolidated Targeted Infrastructure Protection program.
"The federal share of the seaport facility security funding partnership needs to be increased, not reprogrammed and diluted," says Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, noting that the U.S. economy, safety and national defense depend largely on how well the country can protect its seaports and ensure deep-draft shipping access to those ports.
The consolidated funding proposal is only part of the problem, however. The AAPA also charges that more funding is needed for navigation channel maintenance. By the association's accounting, at least $750 million will be required for deep-draft dredging projects, but the administration's budget calls for only $707 million. Although the latest budget request contains more port funding than last year's, Nagle says, "[it] still falls short of what is needed to adequately maintain the nation's ports and harbors."