- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

House Republicans, turning up the heat in the aftermath of the Dubai ports fight, today will introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at bulking up security of U.S. seaports.

The bill — by House Homeland Security Committee members Dan Lungren, California Republican, and Jane Harman, California Democrat — calls for $800 million for each of the next five years for ports security.

In the past four appropriations cycles combined, $700 million has been spent on ports. But the Coast Guard has estimated that more than $5 billion will be required to secure them fully, aides said.

“The threat to our national port security is too high and the consequences of an attack too great for the risk to be mitigated at such a slow pace,” said a joint statement by Mrs. Harman and Mr. Lungren, who heads the homeland security panel’s economic security, infrastructure protection, and cybersecurity subcommittee.

The House bill tracks with a bipartisan Senate bill being pushed by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and the panel’s top Democrat, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. The Senate bill would authorize $835 million annually over five years for security.

Both Miss Collins’ group and Mr. Lungren’s group were working on the legislation long before the public uproar over a Dubai-owned company’s buying terminal operations at several U.S. ports, but hope that it has built momentum for real improvement.

Even though DP World, the Dubai company, agreed last week to sell its U.S. port operations to a U.S. company, the issue isn’t going away. Some Democrats are using the situation to criticize Republicans for paltry ports security this election year.

The House and Senate bills are largely alike — they would create a director of cargo security policy in the Homeland Security Department, ask the agency to develop a strategy to improve security in the international supply chain and enhance requirements for examining inbound cargo.

The bills also would create a program to entice private importers to enact top security standards for cargo in exchange for special treatment and would direct the department to come up with a detailed plan regarding how trade would resume after a U.S. port attack.

Meanwhile yesterday, Miss Collins and Mr. Lieberman also introduced a separate bill that would reform the interagency panel responsible for approving deals such as the Dubai transaction.

Among other changes, it would move the 12-member Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) under the supervision of the Homeland Security Department, instead of the Treasury Department, and would require congressional notification.

Lawmakers from both parties were outraged that the panel approved the Dubai deal without telling them or key administration officials. Homeland Security oversaw the January approval of the Dubai deal, although neither Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff nor President Bush was notified of the ongoing process.

Both chambers are expected to move legislation to improve the panel. Among the many lawmakers working on such bills are Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

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