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Before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and 

International Relations 

House Committee on Government Reform:

United States General Accounting Office:


For Release on Delivery Expected at 1:00 p.m. EDT Monday

August 5, 2002:

Port Security:

Nation Faces Formidable Challenges in Making New Initiatives 


Port Security:

Statement of JayEtta Z. Hecker 

Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues:


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

I appreciate the opportunity to be here in Tampa to discuss issues 

critical to successful enhancement of seaport security. While most of 

the early attention following the September 11 terrorist attacks 

focused on airport security, an increasing emphasis has since been 

placed on ports. Much of the attention, at least in the media, focuses 

on the possibility of introducing weapons of mass destruction or other 

hazardous cargoes into ship cargoes and from there onto America’s docks 

and into its other transportation systems. However, the vast nature and 

scope of ports like Tampa pose many other kinds of security concerns as 

well, such as attacks on cruise ships or petrochemical facilities at or 

near the port. Addressing such concerns is complicated by the sometimes 

conflicting views of the many stakeholders that are involved in port 

decisions, including government agencies at the federal, state, and 

local levels, and thousands of private sector companies.

As you requested, my testimony today focuses on (1) the vulnerabilities 

of commercial ports, including Tampa; (2) the initiatives taken by 

federal agencies and other key stakeholders to enhance seaport 

security; and (3) challenges faced in implementing security-enhancing 

initiatives. My comments are based on a body of our work undertaken 

since September 11, 2001,[Footnote 1] on homeland security and 

combating terrorism. Our recently completed work on seaport security is 

based on detailed site reviews of security issues with officials from 

the Coast Guard, port authorities, and other public and private 

stakeholder groups. We visited three Florida seaports--including Tampa-

-and the ports of Charleston, South Carolina, Oakland, California, 

Honolulu, Hawaii, Boston, Massachusetts, and Tacoma, Washington, 

selected to reflect geographic dispersion, and risk characteristics. We 

obtained information on initiatives from officials from Coast Guard 

headquarters, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA),[Footnote 2] 

and the Maritime Administration, as well as the American Association of 

Port Authorities and the private contractor recently hired by the Coast 

Guard to perform comprehensive port vulnerability assessments. See the 

appendix for a more detailed explanation of our scope and methodology.

In summary:

* Ports are inherently vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of their 

size, generally open accessibility by water and land, location in 

metropolitan areas, the amount of material being transported through 

ports, and the ready transportation links to many locations within our 

borders. The nation faces a difficult task in providing effective 

security across the nation’s port system, and while progress is being 

made, an effective port security environment may be many years away. 

Although some ports have developed in such a way that security can be 

tightened relatively easily, many ports are extensive in size and have 

dispersed enterprises intertwined with such security concerns as public 

roadways and bridges, large petrochemical storage facilities, unguarded 

access points, and a need for ready access on the part of thousands of 

workers and customers. The Port of Tampa illustrates many of these same 

kinds of vulnerabilities, and its proximity to downtown and to other 

sensitive installations is another reason for concern. While broad 

popular support exists for greater safety, this task is a difficult one 

because the nation relies heavily on a free and expeditious flow of 

goods. To the extent that better security impinges on this economic 

vitality, it represents a real cost to the system.

* Since September 11, federal agencies, state and local authorities, 

and private sector stakeholders have done much to address 

vulnerabilities in the security of the nations ports. The Coast Guard, 

in particular, has acted as a focal point for assessing and addressing 

security concerns, anticipating many of the requirements that the 

Congress and the administration either are contemplating or have 

already put in place. Two other key federal agencies--the Customs 

Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)--also have 

actions under way to begin to address such issues as container security 

and screening of persons seeking entry into the United States. At the 

state level, Florida has enacted a set of security standards in advance 

of September 11 and has taken a number of actions to implement these 

standards at the ports. At other ports across the nation, actions have 

varied considerably, particularly among private sector stakeholders.

* While the proposal to consolidate federal agencies responsible for 

border security may offer some long-term benefits, three challenges are 

central to successful implementation of security enhancing initiatives 

at the nations ports--standards, funding, and collaboration. The first 

challenge involves implementing a set of standards that defines what 

safeguards a port should have in place. Under the Coast Guard’s 

direction, a set of standards is being developed for all U.S. ports to 

use in conducting port vulnerability assessments. However, many 

questions remain about whether the thousands of people who have grown 

accustomed to working in certain ways at the nation’s ports will agree 

to, and implement, the kinds of changes that a substantially changed 

environment will require. The second challenge involves determining the 

amounts needed and sources of funding for the kinds of security 

improvements that are likely to be required to meet the standards. 

Florida’s experience indicates that security measures are likely to be 

more expensive than many anticipate, and determining how to pay these 

costs and how the federal government should participate will present a 

challenge. The third challenge is ensuring that there is sufficient 

cooperation and coordination among the many stakeholders to make the 

security measures actually work. The experience to date indicates that 

this coordination is more difficult than many stakeholders anticipate 

and that continued practice and testing will be key in making it work.


Seaports are critical gateways for the movement of international 

commerce. More than 95 percent of our non-North American foreign trade 

(and 100 percent of certain commodities, such as foreign oil, on which 

we are heavily dependent) arrives by ship. In 2001, approximately 5,400 

ships carrying multinational crews and cargoes from around the globe 

made more than 60,000 U.S. port calls each year. More than 6 million 

containers (suitable for truck-trailers) enter the country annually. 

Particularly with “just-in-time” deliveries of goods, the expeditious 

flow of commerce through these ports is so essential that the Coast 

Guard Commandant stated after September 11, “even slowing the flow long 

enough to inspect either all or a statistically significant random 

selection of imports would be economically intolerable.”[Footnote 3]

This tremendous flow of goods creates many kinds of vulnerability. 

Drugs and illegal aliens are routinely smuggled into this country, not 

only in small boats but also hidden among otherwise legitimate cargoes 

on large commercial ships. These same pathways are available for 

exploitation by a terrorist organization or any nation or person 

wishing to attack us surreptitiously. Protecting against these 

vulnerabilities is made more difficult by the tremendous variety of 

U.S. ports. Some are multibillion-dollar enterprises, while others have 

very limited facilities and very little traffic. Cargo operations are 

similarly varied, including containers, liquid bulk (such as 

petroleum), dry bulk (such as grain), and iron ore or steel. Amidst 

this variety is one relatively consistent complication: most seaports 

are located in or near major metropolitan areas, where attacks or 

incidents make more people vulnerable.

The federal government has jurisdiction over harbors and interstate and 

foreign commerce, but state and local governments are the main port 

regulators. The entities that coordinate port operations, generally 

called port authorities, differ considerably from each other in their 

structure. Some are integral administrative arms of state or local 

governments; others are autonomous or semi-autonomous self-sustaining 

public corporations. At least two--The Port Authority of New York and 

New Jersey and the Delaware River Port Authority--involve two states 

each. Port authorities also have varying funding mechanisms. Some have 

the ability to levy taxes, with voter approval required. At other port 

authorities, voter approval is not required. Some have the ability to 

issue general obligation bonds, and some can issue revenue bonds. Some 

ports receive funding directly from the general funds of the 

governments they are a part of, and some receive state funding support 

through trust funds or loan guarantees.

A terrorist act involving chemical, biological, radiological, or 

nuclear weapons at one of these seaports could result in extensive loss 

of lives, property, and business; affect the operations of harbors and 

the transportation infrastructure (bridges, railroads, and highways) 

within the port limits; cause extensive environmental damage; and 

disrupt the free flow of trade. Port security measures are aimed at 

minimizing the exploitation or disruption of maritime trade and the 

underlying infrastructure and processes that support it. The Brookings 

Institution reported in 2002 that a weapon of mass destruction shipped 

by container or mail could cause damage and disruption costing the 

economy as much as $1 trillion.[Footnote 4] Port vulnerabilities stem 

from inadequate security measures as well as from the challenge of 

monitoring the vast and rapidly increasing volume of cargo, persons, 

and vessels passing through the ports.

Port security is a complex issue that involves numerous key actors 

including federal, state, and local law enforcement and inspection 

agencies; port authorities; private sector businesses; and organized 

labor and other port employees. The routine border control activities 

of certain federal agencies, most notably the Coast Guard, Customs 

Service, and INS, seek to ensure that the flow of cargo, vessels, and 

persons through seaports complies with all applicable U.S. criminal and 

civil laws. Also, the Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 

the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Department of 

Defense (DOD) seek to ensure that critical seaport infrastructure is 

safeguarded from major terrorist attack.

Characteristics of Many U.S. Ports Leave Them Vulnerable to Terrorist 


While no two ports in the United States are exactly alike, many share 

certain characteristics that make them vulnerable to terrorist attacks 

or for use as shipping conduits by terrorists. These characteristics 

pertain to both their physical layout and their function. For example:

* Many ports are extensive in size and accessible by water and land. 

Their accessibility makes it difficult to apply the kinds of security 

measures that, for example, can be more readily applied at airports.

* Most ports are located in or near major metropolitan areas; their 

activities, functions, and facilities, such as petroleum tank farms and 

other potentially hazardous material storage facilities, are often 

intertwined with the infrastructure of urban life, such as roads, 

bridges, and factories.

* The sheer amount of material being transported through ports provides 

a ready avenue for the introduction of many different types of threats.

* The combination of many different transportation modes (e.g., rail 

and roads) and the concentration of passengers, high-value cargo, and 

hazardous materials make ports potential targets.

The Port of Tampa illustrates many of these vulnerability 

characteristics. The port is large and sprawling, with port-owned 

facilities interspersed among private facilities along the waterfront, 

increasing the difficulty of access control. It is Florida’s busiest 

port in terms of raw tonnage of cargo, and the cargoes themselves 

include about half of Florida’s volume of hazardous materials, such as 

anhydrous ammonia, liquid petroleum gas, and sulfur. The port’s varied 

business--bulk freighters and tankers, container ships, cruise ships, 

fishing vessels, and ship repair and servicing--brings many people onto 

the port to work daily. For example, in orange juice traffic alone, as 

many as 2,000 truck drivers might be involved in off loading ships.

The Tampa port’s proximity to substantial numbers of people and 

facilities is another reason for concern. It is located close to 

downtown Tampa’s economic core, making attacks on hazardous materials 

facilities potentially of greater consequence than for more isolated 

ports. A number of busy public roads pass through the port. In 

addition, located nearby are facilities such as McDill Air Force 

Base[Footnote 5] (the location of the U.S. Central Command, which is 

leading the fighting in Afghanistan) and the Crystal River nuclear 

power plant, both of which could draw the attention of terrorists.

Extensive Initiatives Taken by Stakeholders to Address Port Security 

Since September 11:

Since September 11, the various stakeholders involved in ports have 

undertaken extensive initiatives to begin strengthening their security 

against potential terrorist threats. As might be expected given the 

national security aspects of the September 11 attacks, these activities 

have been most extensive at the federal level. However, states, port 

authorities, local agencies, and private companies have also been 

involved. The efforts extend across a broad spectrum of ports and port 

activities, but the levels of effort vary from location to location.

Key Federal Agencies Have Taken Important Steps:

While many federal agencies are involved in aspects of port security, 

three play roles that are particularly key--the Coast Guard, Customs 

Service, and INS.[Footnote 6] The Coast Guard, which has overall 

federal responsibility for many aspects of port security, has been 

particularly active. After September 11, the Coast Guard responded by 

refocusing its efforts and repositioning vessels, aircraft, and 

personnel not only to provide security, but also to increase visibility 

in key maritime locations. Some of its important actions included the 


* Conducting initial risk assessments of ports. These limited risk 

assessments, done by Coast Guard marine safety personnel at individual 

ports, identified high-risk infrastructure and facilities within 

specific areas of operation.[Footnote 7] The assessments helped 

determine how the Coast Guard’s small boats would be used for harbor 

security patrols. The Port of Tampa received one of these assessments, 

and the Coast Guard increased the frequency of harbor patrols in Tampa.

* Redeploying assets. The Coast Guard recalled all cutters that were 

conducting offshore law enforcement patrols for drug, immigration, and 

fisheries enforcement and repositioned them at entrances to such ports 

as Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. Many of 

these cutters are now being returned to other missions, although some 

continue to be involved in security-related activities.

* Strengthening surveillance of passenger-related operations and other 

high-interest vessels. The Coast Guard established new 

guidelines[Footnote 8] for developing security plans and implementing 

security measures for passenger vessels and passenger terminals, 

including access controls to passenger terminals and security zones 

around passenger ships. In Tampa and elsewhere, the Coast Guard 

established security zones around moored cruise ships and other high-

interest vessels, such as naval vessels and tank ships carrying 

liquefied petroleum gas. The Coast Guard also boarded or escorted many 

of those vessels to ensure their safe entry into the ports. In some 

areas, such as San Francisco Bay, the Coast Guard also established 

waterside security zones adjacent to large airports located near the 


* Laying the groundwork for more comprehensive security planning. The 

Coast Guard began a process for comprehensively assessing the security 

conditions of 55 U.S. ports over a 3-year period. The agency has a 

contract with a private firm, TRW Systems, to conduct detailed 

vulnerability assessments of these ports. The first four assessments 

are expected to begin in mid-August 2002, following initial work to 

develop a methodology and identify security standards and best 

practices that can be used for evaluating the security environment of 

ports. Tampa is expected to be among the first eight ports assessed 

under this process.

* Driving Maritime Security Worldwide. The Coast Guard is working 

through the International Maritime Organization to improve maritime 

security worldwide. It has proposed accelerated implementation of 

electronic ship identification systems, ship and port facility security 

plans, and the undertaking of port security assessments. The proposals 

have been approved in a security-working group and will be before the 

entire organization in December 2002.

According to the U.S. Customs Service, it has several initiatives under 

way in the United States and elsewhere to help ensure the security of 

cargo entering through U.S. ports. These initiatives include the 


* Inspecting containers and other cargoes. Beginning in the summer of 

2002, Customs plans to deploy 20 new mobile gamma ray imaging devices 

at U.S. ports to help inspectors examine the contents of cargo 

containers and vehicles. Customs is also adapting its computer-based 

system for targeting containers for inspection. The system, originally 

designed for the agency’s counter-narcotics efforts, flags suspect 

shipments for inspection on the basis of an analysis of shipping, 

intelligence, and law enforcement data, which are also checked against 

criteria derived from inspectors expertise. These new efforts would 

adjust the system to better target terrorist threats as well.

* Prescreening cargo. In its efforts to increase security, Customs has 

entered into an agreement to station inspectors at three Canadian ports 

to prescreen cargo bound for the United States. The agency has since 

reached similar agreements with the Netherlands, Belgium, and France to 

place U.S. inspectors at key ports and initiated similar negotiations 

with other foreign governments in Europe and Asia.

* Working with the global trade community. Customs is also engaging the 

trade community in a partnership program to protect U.S. borders and 

international commerce from acts of terrorism. In this recent 

initiative, U.S. importers--and ultimately carriers and other 

businesses--enter into voluntary agreements with Customs to enhance the 

security of their global supply chains and those of their business 

partners. In return, Customs will agree to expedite the clearance of 

the members’ cargo at U.S. ports of entry.

INS is also working on a number of efforts to increase border security 

to prevent terrorists or other undesirable aliens from entering the 

United States. INS proposes to spend nearly $3 billion on border 

enforcement in fiscal year 2003--about 75 percent of its total 

enforcement budget of $4.1 billion. A substantial number of INS’s 

actions relate to creating an entry and exit system to identify persons 

posing security threats. INS is working on a system to create records 

for aliens arriving in the United States and match them with those 

aliens’ departure records. The Immigration and Naturalization Service 

Data Management Improvement Act of 2000 requires the U.S. Attorney 

General to implement such a system at airports and seaports by the end 

of 2003, at the 50 land border ports with the greatest numbers of 

arriving and departing aliens by the end of 2004, and at all ports by 

the end of 2005. The USA Patriot Act,[Footnote 9] passed in October 

2001, further instructs the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of 

State to focus on two new elements in designing this system--tamper-

resistant documents that are machine-readable at ports of entry and the 

use of biometric technology, such as fingerprint and retinal scanning. 

Another Act[Footnote 10] passed by Congress goes further by making the 

use of biometrics a requirement in the new entry and exit system.

A potentially more active agency in the future is the new TSA, which 

has been directed to protect all transportation systems and establish 

needed standards.[Footnote 11] To date, however, TSA has had limited 

involvement in certain aspects of improving port security. TSA 

officials report that they are working with the Coast Guard, Customs, 

and other public and private stakeholders to enhance all aspects of 

maritime security, such as developing security standards, developing 

and promulgating regulations to implement the standards, and monitoring 

the execution of the regulations. TSA, along with the Maritime 

Administration and the Coast Guard is administering the federal grant 

program to enhance port security. TSA officials also report that they 

plan to establish a credentialing system for transportation workers.

President and the Congress Have Taken Many Actions and Are Considering 


The Congress is currently considering additional legislation to further 

enhance seaport security. Federal port security legislation is expected 

to emerge from conference committee as members reconcile S. 

1214[Footnote 12] and H.R. 3983.[Footnote 13] Key provisions of these 

two bills include requiring vulnerability assessments at major U.S. 

seaports and developing comprehensive security plans for all waterfront 

facilities. Other provisions in one or both bills include establishing 

local port security committees, assessing antiterrorism measures at 

foreign ports, conducting antiterrorism drills, improving training for 

maritime security professionals, making federal grants for security 

infrastructure improvements, preparing a national maritime 

transportation security plan, credentialing transportation workers, 

and controlling access to sensitive areas at ports. The Coast Guard and 

other agencies have already started work on some of the provisions of 

the bills in anticipation of possible enactment.

Some funding has already been made available for enhanced port 

security. As part of an earlier DOD supplemental budget appropriation 

for fiscal year 2002,[Footnote 14] the Congress appropriated $93.3 

million to TSA for port security grants. Three DOT agencies--the 

Maritime Administration, the Coast Guard, and TSA--screened grant 

applications and recently awarded grants to 51 U.S. ports for security 

enhancements and assessments. Tampa received $3.5 million to (1) 

improve access control, which Tampa Port Authority officials believe 

will substantially eliminate access to the port by unauthorized persons 

or criminal elements and (2) install camera surveillance to enforce 

security measures and to detect intrusions. More recently, Congress 

passed legislation authorizing an additional $125 million for port 

security grants, including $20 million for port incident training and 


State, Local, and Private Actions Have Varied:

The federal government has jurisdiction over navigable waters 

(including harbors) and interstate and foreign commerce and is leading 

the way for the nation’s ongoing response to terrorism; however, state 

and local governments are the main regulators of seaports. Private 

sector terminal operators, shipping companies, labor unions, and other 

commercial maritime interests all have a stake in port security. Our 

discussions with public and private sector officials in several ports 

indicates that although many actions have been taken to enhance 

security, there is little uniformity in actions taken thus far.

Florida has been a leader in state initiated actions to enhance port 

security. In 2001--and prior to September 11--Florida became the first 

state to establish security standards for ports under its jurisdiction 

and to require these ports to maintain approved security plans that 

comply with these standards. According to Florida state officials, 

other states have considered similar legislation. However, according to 

an American Association of Port Authorities official, Florida is the 

only state thus far to enact such standards.

Although other states have not created formal requirements as Florida 

has done, there is evidence that many ports have taken various actions 

on their own to address security concerns in the wake of September 11. 

State and local port administrators we spoke with at such locations as 

the South Carolina State Ports Authority and the Port Authority of New 

York and New Jersey, for example, said they had conducted security 

assessments of their ports and made some improvements to their 

perimeter security and access control. At the eight ports where our 

work has been concentrated thus far, officials reported expending a 

total of more than $20 million to enhance security since September 11. 

Likewise, private companies said they have taken some actions, although 

they have varied from location to location. For example, one shipping 

company official said that it had performed a security assessment of 

its own facility; another facility operator indicated that it had 

assessed its own security needs and added access controls and perimeter 

security. In addition, private sector officials at the port of 

Charleston, South Carolina, told us that some facility operators had 

done more than others to improve their security. The Coast Guard’s 

Captain of the Port in Charleston agreed with their assessment. He said 

that one petroleum company has tight security, including access control 

with a sign-in at the gate and visitor’s badge and identification 

checks for everyone entering the facility. Another petroleum facility 

requires all visitors to watch a safety and security video, while a 

third petroleum facility had done so little that the Captain 

characterized security there as inadequate.

Challenges Remain in Implementing Standards, Securing Resources, and 

Building Effective Partnerships:

Several challenges need to be addressed to translate the above 

initiatives into the kind of enhanced security system that the Congress 

and other policymakers have envisioned. A significant organizational 

change appears likely to occur with congressional action to establish a 

new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will integrate many of 

the federal entities involved in protecting the nation’s borders and 

ports. The Comptroller General has recently testified[Footnote 15] that 

we believe there is likely to be considerable benefit over time from 

restructuring some of the homeland security functions, including 

reducing risk and improving the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness 

of these consolidated agencies and programs. Despite the hopeful 

promise of this significant initiative, the underlying challenges of 

successfully implementing measures to improve the security of the 

nation’s ports remain. These challenges include implementation of a set 

of standards that define what safeguards a port should have in place, 

uncertainty about the amount and sources of funds needed to adequately 

address identified needs, and difficulties in establishing effective 

coordination among the many public and private entities that have a 

stake in port security.[Footnote 16]

Implementing National Security Standards Could Prove Difficult:

One major challenge involves developing a complete set of standards for 

the level of security that needs to be present in the nation’s ports. 

Adequate standards, consistently applied, are important because lax 

security at even a handful of ports could make them attractive targets 

for terrorists interested in smuggling dangerous cargo, damaging port 

infrastructure, or otherwise disrupting the flow of goods.

In the past, the level of security has largely been a local issue, and 

practices have varied greatly. For example, at one port we visited most 

port facilities were completely open, with few fences and many open 

gates. In contrast, another port had completely sealed all entrances to 

the port, and everyone attempting to gain access to port property had 

to show identification and state their port business before access to 

the port was granted. Practices also vary greatly among facilities at a 

single port. At Tampa, for example, a set of state standards applies to 

petroleum and anhydrous ammonia tanks on port property; but security 

levels at similar facilities on private land are left to the discretion 

of private companies.

Development of a set of national standards that would apply to all 

ports and all public and private facilities is well under way. In 

preparing to assess security conditions at 55 U.S. ports, the Coast 

Guard’s contractor has been developing a set of standards since May 

2002. The Coast Guard standards being developed cover such things as 

preventing unauthorized persons from accessing sensitive areas, 

detecting and intercepting intrusions, checking backgrounds of those 

whose jobs require access to port facilities, and screening travelers 

and other visitors to port facilities. These standards are performance-

based, in that they describe the desired outcome and leave the ports 

considerable discretion about how to accomplish the task. For example, 

the standards call for all employees and passengers to be screened for 

dangerous items or contraband but do not specify the method that must 

be used for these screenings. The Coast Guard believes that using 

performance standards will provide ports with the needed flexibility to 

deal with varying conditions and situations in each location rather 

than requiring a “cookie-cutter” approach that may not be as effective 

in some locations as it would be in others.

Developing and gaining overall acceptance of these standards is 

difficult enough, but implementing them seems likely to be far tougher. 

Implementation includes resolving thorny situations in which security 

concerns may collide with economic or other goals. Again, Tampa offers 

a good example. Some of the port’s major employers consist of ship 

repair companies that hire hundreds of workers for short-term projects 

as the need arises. Historically, according to port authority 

officials, these workers have included persons with criminal records. 

However, new state requirements for background checks, as part of 

issuing credentials, could deny such persons needed access to 

restricted areas of the port. From a security standpoint, excluding 

such persons may be advisable; but from an economic standpoint, a 

company may have difficulty filling jobs if it cannot include such 

persons in the labor pool. Around the country, ports will face many 

such issues, ranging from these credentialing questions to deciding 

where employees and visitors can park their cars. To the degree that 

some stakeholders believe that the security actions are unnecessary or 

conflict with other goals and interests, achieving consensus about what 

to do will be difficult.

Another reason that implementation poses a challenge is that there is 

little precedent for how to enforce the standards. The Coast Guard 

believes it has authority under current law and regulations[Footnote 

17] to require security upgrades, at both public and private 

facilities. Coast Guard officials have also told us that they may write 

regulations to address the weaknesses found during the ongoing 

vulnerability assessment process. However, the size, complexity, and 

diversity of port operations do not lend themselves to an enforcement 

approach such as the one the United States adopted for airports in the 

wake of September 11, when airports were shut down temporarily until 

they could demonstrate compliance with a new set of security 

procedures. In the case of ports, compliance could take much longer, 

require greater compromises on the part of stakeholders, and raise 

immediate issues about how compliance will be paid for--and who will 

bear the costs.

Funding Issues Are Pivotal:

Many of the planned security improvements at seaports will require 

costly outlays for infrastructure, technology, and personnel. Even 

before September 11, the Interagency Commission on Crime and Security 

in U.S. Seaports[Footnote 18] estimated the costs for upgrading 

security infrastructure at U.S. ports ranging from $10 million to $50 

million per port.[Footnote 19] Officials at the Port of Tampa estimated 

their cost for bringing the port’s security into compliance with state 

standards at $17 million--with an additional $5 million each year for 

security personnel and other recurring costs.

Deciding how to pay for these additional outlays carries its own set of 

challenges. Because security at the ports is a concern shared among 

federal, state, and local governments, as well as among private 

commercial interests, the issue of who should pay to finance 

antiterrorism activities may be difficult to resolve. Given the 

importance of seaports to our nation’s economic infrastructure and the 

importance of preventing dangerous persons or goods from entering our 

borders, it has been argued by some that protective measures for ports 

should be financed at the federal level. Port and private sector 

officials we spoke with said that federal crime, including terrorism, 

is the federal government’s responsibility, and if security is needed, 

the federal government should provide it. On the other hand, many of 

the economic development benefits that ports bring, such as employment 

and tax revenue, remain within the state or the local area. In 

addition, commercial interests and other private users of ports could 

directly benefit from security measures because steps designed to 

thwart terrorists could also prevent others from stealing goods or 

causing other kinds of economic damage.

The federal government has already stepped in with additional funding, 

but demand has far outstripped the additional amounts made available. 

For example, when the Congress appropriated $93.3 million to help ports 

with their security needs, the grant applications received by TSA 

totaled $697 million--many multiples of the amount available (even 

including the additional $125 million just appropriated for port 

security needs). However, it is not clear that $697 million is an 

accurate estimate of the need because, according to the Coast Guard and 

Maritime Administration officials, applications from private industry 

may have been limited because of the brief application period. In 

Tampa, while officials believe that they need $17 million for security 

upgrades, they submitted an application for about $8 million in federal 

funds and received $3.5 million.

In the current environment, ports may have to try to tap multiple 

sources of funding. Tampa officials told us that they plan to use funds 

from a variety of state, local, and federal sources to finance their 

required security improvements. These include such sources as federal 

grants, state transportation funds, local tax and bond revenues, and 

operating revenues from port tenants. In Florida, one major source for 

security money has been the diversion of state funds formerly earmarked 

for economic development projects. According to Florida officials, in 

2002, for example, Florida ports have spent virtually all of the $30 

million provided by the state for economic development on security-

related projects. Ports throughout the nation may have varying 

abilities to tap similar sources of funding. In South Carolina, for 

example, where port officials identified $12.2 million in needed 

enhancements and received $1.9 million in TSA grants, officials said no 

state funding was available.[Footnote 20] By contrast, nearby ports in 

North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia do have access to at least some 

state-subsidized funding. South Carolina port officials also reported 

that they had financed $755,000 in security upgrades with operating 

revenue, such as earnings from shippers’ rental of port-owned 

equipment, but they said operating revenues were insufficient to pay 

for much of the needed improvements.

These budget demands place pressure on the federal government to make 

the best decisions about how to use the funding it makes available. 

Governments also have a variety of policy tools, including grants, 

regulations, tax incentives, and information-sharing mechanisms to 

motivate or mandate other lower levels of government or the private 

sector to help address security concerns, each with different 

advantages or drawbacks, for example, in achieving results or promoting 

accountability. Security legislation currently under consideration by 

the Congress includes, for example, federal loan guarantees as another 

funding approach in addition to direct grants.

Shared Responsibilities Place a Premium on Effective Communication and 


Finally, once adequate security measures are in place, there are still 

formidable challenges to making them work. As we have reported, one 

challenge to achieving national preparedness and response goals hinges 

on the federal government’s ability to form effective partnerships 

among many entities.[Footnote 21] If such partnerships are not in 

place--and equally important, if they do not work effectively--those 

who are ultimately in charge cannot gain the resources, expertise, and 

cooperation of the people who must implement security measures. One 

purpose in creating the proposed DHS is to enhance such partnerships at 

the federal level.

Part of this challenge involves making certain that all the right 

people are involved. At the ports we reviewed, the extent to which this 

had been done varied. The primary means of coordination at many ports 

are port security committees, which are led by the Coast Guard; the 

committees offer a promising forum for federal, state, and local 

government and private stakeholders to share information and make 

decisions collaboratively. For example, a Captain of the Port told us 

that coordination and cooperation among port stakeholders at a port in 

his area of responsibility are excellent and that monthly meetings are 

held with representation from law enforcement, the port authority, 

shipping lines, shipping agents, and the maritime business community. 

However, in another port, officials told us that their port security 

committees did not always include representatives from port 

stakeholders who were able to speak for and make decisions on behalf of 

their organization.

An incident that occurred shortly before our review at the Port of 

Honolulu illustrates the importance of ensuring that security measures 

are carried out and that they produce the desired results. The Port had 

a security plan that called for notifying the Coast Guard and local law 

enforcement authorities about serious incidents. One such incident took 

place in April 2002, when, as cargo was being loaded onto a cruise 

ship, specially trained dogs reacted to possible explosives in one of 

the loads, and the identified pallet was set aside. Despite the 

notification policy, personnel working for the shipping agent and the 

private company providing security at the dock failed to notify either 

local law enforcement officials or the Coast Guard about the incident. 

A few hours after the incident took place, Coast Guard personnel 

conducting a foot patrol found the pallet and inquired about it, and, 

when told about the dogs’ reaction, they immediately notified local 

emergency response agencies. Once again, however, the procedure was 

less than successful because the various organizations were all using 

radios that operated on different frequencies, making coordination 

between agencies much more difficult.

Fortunately, the Honolulu incident did not result in any injuries or 

loss, and Coast Guard officials said that it illustrates the importance 

of practice and testing of security measures. They also said that for 

procedures to be effective when needed they must be practiced and the 

exercises critiqued so the procedures become refined and second nature 

to all parties. According to a Coast Guard official, since the April 

incident, another incident occurred where another possible explosive 

was detected. This time all the proper procedures were followed and all 

the necessary parties were contacted.

One aspect of coordination and cooperation that was lacking in the 

standard security measures we observed is the sharing of key 

intelligence about such issues as threats and law enforcement actions. 

No standard protocol exists for such an information exchange between 

the federal government and the state and local agencies that need to 

react to it. In addition, no formal mechanism exists at the ports we 

visited for the coordination of threat information. State and local 

officials told us that for their governments to act as partners with 

the federal government in homeland security, of which port security is 

a critical part, they need better access to threat information.

We identified a broad range of barriers that must be overcome to meet 

this challenge. For example, one barrier involves security clearances. 

Officials at the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), the 

organization that represents state and local emergency management 

personnel, told us that personnel in the agencies they represent have 

difficulty in obtaining critical intelligence information. Although 

state or local officials may hold security clearances issued by the 

Federal Emergency Management Agency, other federal agencies, such as 

the Federal Bureau of Investigation, do not generally recognize these 

security clearances. Similarly, officials from the National Governors 

Association told us that because most state governors do not have a 

security clearance, they cannot receive any classified threat 

information. This could affect their ability to effectively use the 

National Guard or state police to prevent and respond to a terrorist 

attack, as well as hamper their emergency preparedness 

capability.[Footnote 22]

The importance of information-sharing on an ongoing basis can be seen 

in an example of how discussions among three agencies, each with its 

own piece of the puzzle, first failed but then uncovered a scheme under 

which port operations were being used to illegally obtain visas to 

enter the United States. The scheme, which was conducted in Haiti, was 

discovered only after a number of persons entered the United States 

illegally. Under this scheme, people would apply at the U.S. Consulate 

in Haiti for entrance visas on the pretext that they had been hired to 

work on ships that were about to call at the Port of Miami. However, 

the ships were no longer in service. The Coast Guard knew that these 

ships were no longer in service, but this information was not known by 

the State Department (which issued the visas) or INS (which admitted 

the people into the United States). A Coast Guard official at the Miami 

Marine Safety Office estimated that hundreds of people entered the 

country illegally in 2002.[Footnote 23] Once this was discovered by 

Coast Guard personnel, they contacted certain American embassies to 

inform them of the vessels that have been taken out of active service 

or have been lost at sea and instituted procedures to ensure that the 

potential crew member was joining a legitimate vessel.

The breadth of the challenge of improved coordination and collaboration 

is evident in the sheer magnitude of the players, even if the proposed 

DHS is enacted. Coordination challenges will remain among the 22 

federal entities that would be brought together in the proposed DHS; 

between these diverse elements of DHS and the many entities with 

homeland security functions still outside DHS; and between the full 

range of federal entities and the myriad of state, local, and private 


In summary, Mr. Chairman, making America’s ports more secure is not a 

short-term or easy project. There are many challenges that must be 

overcome. The ports we visited and the responsible federal, state, and 

local entities have made a good start, but they have a long way to go. 

While there is widespread support for making the nation safe from 

terrorism, ports are likely to epitomize a continuing tension between 

the desire for safety and security and the need for expeditious, open 

flow of goods both into and out of the country.

This completes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to respond to 

any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee may have.

Contacts and Acknowledgments:

For information about this testimony, please contact JayEtta Z. Hecker, 

Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, on (202) 512-2834. 

Individuals making key contributions to this testimony included Randy 

Williamson, Steven Calvo, Jonathan Bachman, Jeff Rueckhaus, and Stan 


[End of section]

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:

To learn of the vulnerabilities present at ports, the initiatives 

undertaken since September 11 to mitigate them and the challenges that 

could impede further progress, we judgmentally selected 10 ports--8 of 

which we visited--to provide a geographically diverse sample and, in 

many cases, include ports where special attention had been devoted to 

security issues. For example, we visited the ports in Tampa, Miami, and 

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades) because they--like all of Florida’s 

deepwater ports--are required to implement state-mandated security 

standards, and because they handle large numbers of cruise passengers 

or large quantities of containerized or bulk cargoes. While in Florida, 

we also met with state officials from the Office of Drug Control, which 

developed the port security standards and the legislation codifying 

them, and from the Department of Law Enforcement, charged with 

overseeing the implementation of the state standards. In addition, we 

visited ports in Charleston, South Carolina, and Honolulu, Hawaii, 

which had been the subject of detailed vulnerability studies by the 

Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), in order to determine their 

progress in implementing the security enhancements recommended by DTRA. 

For further geographical representation we visited the ports in 

Oakland, California; Tacoma, Washington; and Boston, Massachusetts, and 

held telephone discussions with officials from the Port Authority of 

New York and New Jersey and with the Coast Guard in Guam. At each port 

visit, we toured the port on land and from the water in order to view 

the enhancements made since September 11 and the outstanding security 

needs. We also interviewed officials from the Coast Guard and other 

public and private sector port stakeholders, such as port authorities, 

state transportation departments, marine shipping companies, shipping 

agents, marine pilots, and private terminal operators.

To determine federal, state, local, and private initiatives to enhance 

port security and the implementation challenges, we had several 

conversations with officials from the Coast Guard headquarters, DTRA, 

the Maritime Administration, the American Association of Port 

Authorities, and the private contractor recently hired by the Coast 

Guard to conduct comprehensive vulnerability assessments at 55 U.S. 

ports. These discussions included issues related to port security 

assessments--both completed and planned--communication and 

coordination with port stakeholders, federal funding of port security 

enhancements, and other issues. In addition, we analyzed administrative 

data from the federally funded TSA Port Security Grant Program for 

additional information on the security needs of ports and the ports’ 

progress since September 11 in enhancing their security.

[End of section]

Related GAO Products:

Homeland Security:

Homeland Security: Critical Design and Implementation Issues 

(GAO-02-957T, July 17, 2002):

Homeland Security: Title III of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 

(GAO-02-927T, July 9, 2002):

Homeland Security: Intergovernmental Coordination and Partnerships 

Will Be Critical to Success (GAO-02-899T, July 1, 2002).

Homeland Security: New Department Could Improve Coordination but May 

Complicate Priority Setting (GAO-02-893T, June 28, 2002).

Homeland Security: Proposal for Cabinet Agency Has Merit, But 

Implementation Will be Pivotal to Success (GAO-02-886T, June 25, 2002).

Homeland Security: Key Elements to Unify Efforts Are Underway but 

Uncertainty Remains (GAO-02-610, June 7, 2002).

National Preparedness: Integrating New and Existing Technology and 

Information Sharing into an Effective Homeland Security Strategy (GAO-

02-811T, June 7, 2002).

Homeland Security: Responsibility And Accountability For Achieving 

National Goals (GAO-02-627T, April 11, 2002).

National Preparedness: Integration of Federal, State, Local, and 

Private Sector Efforts Is Critical to an Effective National Strategy 

for Homeland Security (GAO-02-621T, April 11, 2002).

Homeland Security: Progress Made; More Direction and Partnership Sought 

(GAO-02-490T, March 12, 2002).

Homeland Security: Challenges and Strategies in Addressing Short-and 

Long-Term National Needs (GAO-02-160T, November 7, 2001).

Homeland Security: A Risk Management Approach Can Guide Preparedness 

Efforts (GAO-02-208T, October 31, 2001).

Homeland Security: Key Elements of a Risk Management Approach 

(GAO-02-150T, October 12, 2001).

Homeland Security: A Framework for Addressing the Nation’s Issues (GAO-

01-1158T, September 21, 2001).

Combating Terrorism:

Combating Terrorism: Preliminary Observations on Weaknesses in Force 

Protection for DOD Deployments Through Domestic Seaports (GAO-02-955T, 

July 23, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Intergovernmental Cooperation in the Development 

of a National Strategy to Enhance State and Local Preparedness 

(GAO-02-550T, April 2, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Enhancing Partnerships Through a National 

Preparedness Strategy (GAO-02-549T, March 28, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Critical Components of a National Strategy to 

Enhance State and Local Preparedness (GAO-02-548T, March 25, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Intergovernmental Partnership in a National 

Strategy to Enhance State and Local Preparedness (GAO-02-547T, 

March 22, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Key Aspects of a National Strategy to Enhance 

State and Local Preparedness (GAO-02-473T, March 1, 2002).

Combating Terrorism: Considerations For Investing Resources in Chemical 

and Biological Preparedness (GAO-01-162T, October 17, 2001).

Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations 

(GAO-01-822, September 20, 2001).

Combating Terrorism: Actions Needed to Improve DOD’s Antiterrorism 

Program Implementation and Management (GAO-01-909, September 19, 2001).


[1] See “Related GAO Products” at the end of this testimony.

[2] DTRA was designated to assist the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 

Staff in fulfilling his responsibilities for force protection by 

performing vulnerability assessments at Department of Defense 

installations worldwide. DTRA conducted five assessments at the ports 

of Baltimore, Honolulu, Guam, Charleston, and Savannah.

[3] Meeting the Homeland Security Challenge: A Principled Strategy for 

a Balanced and Practical Response (September 2001); and Global Trade: 

America’s Achilles’ Heel (February 2002) by Admiral James M. Loy and 

Captain Robert G. Ross, U.S. Coast Guard.

[4] Protecting the American Homeland: A Preliminary Analysis by Michael 

E. O’Hanlon et al., Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 


[5] We recently reviewed DOD’s security programs designed to protect 

service members and facilities. The review concentrated mostly on the 

physical security and related aspects of force protection that include 

measures to protect personnel and property. See General Accounting 

Office, Combating Terrorism: Preliminary Observations on Weaknesses in 

Force Protection for DOD Deployments Through Domestic Seaports, 

GAO-02-955T (Washington, D.C.: July 23, 2002).

[6] The federal role extends beyond these three agencies to include 

agencies and offices in 10 departments (Transportation, Treasury, 

Justice, Defense, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, 

Commerce, Labor, and State), as well as 6 other agencies (Federal 

Maritime Commission, National Security Council, Central Intelligence 

Agency, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Environmental 

Protection Agency, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative).

[7] Examples of high-risk infrastructure include fossil fuel processing 

and storage facilities, nuclear power plants, liquid natural gas 

transfer facilities, naval ships and facilities, and cruise ships and 

terminal facilities.

[8] The guidelines were contained in a Navigation and Vessel Inspection 

Circular, an approach the Coast Guard uses to provide detailed guidance 

about enforcement or compliance with certain federal marine safety 

regulations and Coast Guard marine safety programs.

[9] The USA Patriot Act (P.L. 107-56), signed by the President on 

October 26, 2001, has various provisions requiring development of 

technology standards to confirm identity. Under the Act, the Department 

of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology is to 

develop and certify accuracy standards for biometric technologies.

[10] The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 

(P.L. 107-173), signed by the President on May 14, 2002, requires that 

all travel and entry documents (including visas) issued by the United 

States to aliens be machine-readable and tamper-resistant and include 

standard biometric identifiers by October 26, 2004.

[11] The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-71) 

established the TSA under the Secretary of Transportation. The mission 

of TSA is to protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure 

freedom of movement for people and commerce by establishing standards 

for transportation security in collaboration with other federal 


[12] S. 1214, a bill introduced by Senator Ernest F. Hollings aimed at 

amending the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 to establish a program to 

ensure greater security for U.S. seaports, passed in the Senate on 

December 20, 2001.

[13] H.R. 3983, a bill introduced by Representative Don Young to ensure 

the security of maritime transportation in the United States against 

acts of terrorism, passed in the House of Representatives on June 4, 


[14] Department of Defense and Emergency Appropriations for Recovery 

from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States Act 2002 

(Public Law 107-117, H.R. Conference Report 107-350).

[15] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Critical Design 

and Implementation Issues, GAO-02-957T (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 


[16] Furthermore, GAO is separately conducting reviews related to 

Customs’ processing of sea borne containerized and bulk cargo bound for 

the United States, focusing on targeting and the use of screening 

technology. On the basis of our preliminary work at two major U.S. 

seaports, GAO has identified a number of challenges related to the 

implementation and effectiveness of Customs’ initiatives to ensure the 

security of cargo entering U.S. seaports. We are unable to further 

discuss these observations today during this open hearing because of 

the law-enforcement-sensitive nature of the information. In addition, 

GAO has ongoing evaluations of INS’s efforts to control entry of 

terrorists into the U.S.

[17] Ports and Waterways Safety Act, 33 U.S.C. section 1226; and Title 

33 (Navigation and Navigable Waters) Code of Federal Regulations, part 

6 (Protection and Security of Vessels, Harbors, and Waterfront 


[18] On April 27, 1999, the President established the Interagency 

Commission on Crime and Security in U.S. Seaports. The Commission 

issued its report on August 28, 2000.

[19] Estimated range varies on the basis of port size and cost of the 

technology component of the security upgrade.

[20] According to a port authority official, by their charter, South 

Carolina’s ports are structured for self-sufficient operation and do 

not receive any state funds. Other fiscal constraints identified by 

South Carolina port officials include their inability to divert funds 

to security needs from nonsecurity-related improvement projects, 

because those projects are included in contracts with the ports’ 

customers. Also, state law allows the State Ports Authority to borrow 

money, but only if it is for a revenue-generating project, such as a 

container crane. Furthermore, State Ports Authority officials have 

considered levying a security surcharge from their customers. However, 

they concluded that it would place their ports at a competitive 

disadvantage unless other ports also instituted a surcharge.

[21] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: 

Intergovernmental Coordination and Partnership Will Be Critical to 

Success, GAO-02-899T (Washington D.C.: July 1, 2002), GAO-02-900T 

(Washington, D.C.: July 2, 2002), and GAO-02-901T (Washington, D.C.: 

July 3, 2002).

[22] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Progress Made; 

More Direction and Partnership Sought, GAO-02-490T (Washington, D.C.: 

March 12, 2002).

[23] The Coast Guard official developed the estimate after one of the 

leaders who was selling the fraudulent documents was arrested in Miami.