The Senate yesterday approved comprehensive port security legislation (HR 4954 -- The Port Security Improvement Act of 2006) sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Co-Chairmen Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) along with members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

"This bill will strengthen and enhance security at our land and sea ports and improve our overall maritime transportation security strategy," said Chairman Stevens. "The events of September 11th forever altered the course of our nation. We all know and realize that. It was a stark reminder that we must do everything possible to prevent those who wish to harm Americans from carrying out their missions. To prevent future attacks, it is necessary to secure our ports. And this bill is a major step forward."

"The Senate today approved legislation that will dramatically improve the security of our ports and of our other transportation systems," said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, (D-Hawaii). "The Commerce Committee, with its expertise on transportation security and safety issues, laid the foundation of this legislation and much of the underlying bill was pulled from measures approved by our committee. We looked at port security, and other modes of transportation, from every angle, ensuring that security was the foremost priority and recognizing the need to facilitate commerce. We were able to do that because of our understanding of both issues -- security and commerce. Thus, I believe this bill strikes the right balance between security and facilitating the trade that is so important to our economy. Over the past few days, my colleagues made a public commitment to fund these important initiatives and I fully expect that the money to pay for these security measures will remain in the final bill."

The bill strengthens maritime transportation and port security, improves security strategy and enhances communications between the Department of Homeland Security and key stakeholders. The legislation also addresses needed improvements in the maritime sector, such as identifying a lead agency in the case of a maritime transportation incident or disruption as well as developing a plan to resume trade in the case of such an event. This bill expedites the nationwide launch of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and would require security checks for those working in or around U.S. ports, and establishes an interagency operational center for port security to facilitate coordination and communication between federal, state and local officials.

The bill also enhances the security of cargo transiting through the international supply chain, and requires a plan to examine containers entering the U.S. for radiation and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Additionally, the legislation improves cargo security by increasing the number of random searches using the Automated Targeting System (ATS) and Container Security Initiative (CSI) programs to track international cargo that may be a threat to America. The bill authorizes the establishment of a voluntary program, Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) to strengthen the international supply chain and border security, facilitate the movement of secure cargo and provide benefits to eligible participants. The bill establishes several new offices within the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate cargo policy and to assure that appropriate emphasis is placed on security and trade aspects inherent in the maritime transportation sector.

In addition, the following provisions were included:

Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN).

  • attacks, the system created by this amendment will give our emergency managers the ability to alert communities of other hazards such as natural disasters and manmade accidents.
  • The measure ensures that when disaster strikes, the wireless network will be used as a tool so that almost all Americans will be notified through radio, television and wireless communications devices, because there are over 200 million wireless subscribers in the United States.
  • Additionally, capabilities will allow other emergency managers to reach individuals away from their TVs or radios with specific life saving instructions.
E-911 Improvement Act
  • As communications infrastructure changes, we must make sure that we update our laws to maintain our 911 and E-911 capabilities. Currently, laws need to be updated to account for voice communications over the Internet, or VOIP, to ensure that both the obligations and protections of existing law extend to this new technology.
  • Provides the liability protection that everyone needs to be able to provide 911 service.
  • Ensures that IP phone companies have access to E911 components that may be controlled by competitors, which the FCC did not do. Access to certain routers and other critical 911 infrastructure is critical to ensure that the E911 call goes where it is supposed to go as quickly as possible.