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Bush Signs Safe Port Act
Robert Malone, 10.13.06, 3:40 PM ET

President George W. Bush signed the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act into law on Friday along with the Secure Fence Act and legislation related to chemical plant security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reform.

The port safety measures include requiring 100% of imported containers to be scanned for radiation, which will entail the deployment of appropriate monitoring devices, as well as the creation of standards for operating procedures. The act allocates risk-based funding through grants to help harden U.S. ports against terrorist attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to conduct security checks for terrorists and members of organized crime among all port employees, and it will also create watch lists. The act establishes joint operations centers at ports to integrate local, private-sector companies and state and federal partners for a unified event response. It also requires the department to create protocols for operations after a transportation incident.

"All Americans can celebrate the signing of the SAFE Port Act into law," says Paul Kelly, vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. "This comprehensive cargo chain security legislation is now the law of the land." His group's members--retailers, manufacturers and service suppliers, who account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales--are significant importers of goods from the global marketplace, most of which comes into the country through shipping containers.

The act's scope goes beyond the U.S. borders, as the Department of Homeland Security is also required to conduct and assess security measures in foreign ports and strengthen the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program. The act will allow the U.S. government to loan equipment to host nations for container examination.

Finally, the act will improve the inspection of high-risk containers before they reach the U.S. and strengthen the international trade data system, as well as increase research and testing of technology integration.

Peter T. King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, says, "This is truly a milestone in our mission to better secure the homeland."

Only time and the absence of any major security event will tell if he is right and determine whether the money is well spent. At the moment, the funding allocated for SAFE Ports is $6.7 billion. That may seem like an outrageous cost, but it is estimated that a major closure of U.S. ports could cost upwards of $200 million a day.

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