Feeling safer yet? As part of its initiative to boost security at the nation's ports, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently awarded $141.97 million in security grants to what it calls critical ports and maritime facilities. The grants, which represent the fifth round of port security funding since the 9/11 attacks, are intended for use protecting ports against what DHS calls "small craft and underwater attacks and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices." The program also funds measures to enhance explosive detection capabilities aboard passenger vessels.
Though $141.97 million may sound like a lot of money, U.S. port operators say it isn't nearly enough. That amount represents only a fraction of what's needed, they charge. They also complain that the DHS qualified only 66 ports for the fifth-round of grants—a smaller number than in previous rounds.
In defending its grant awards process, the DHS reports that in order to maximize security benefits with limited resources, it encouraged private companies to apply for grants with the requirement of a 50-percent match. In the most recent round of funding, it says, the private sector came through with roughly $33 million in matching grants.
Over the past five years, the Port Security Grant Program has provided $489 million to enhance dockside and perimeter security in the nation's seaports.