Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Post-9/11 Port Security - Where the Money's Going and Why It Shouldn't Be

On Sunday, February 20, 2005, the New York Times published an article headlined Audit Faults U.S. for Its Spending on Port Defense. (Reading the article online my require registration to the New York Times online, but registration is free.)

The New York Times article was based on information contained in a Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General document entitled Review of the Port Security Grant Program. The study was released in January 2005, but its data was gathered between December 2003 and May 2004. (Fair Warning: This study is overpopulated with acronyms and bureaucratese, the stuff Inside-the-Beltway types thrive on.)

The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) was created to improve the security at strategically important US ports. A port is stragetically important if its operation is critical to accomplishing national priorities. To date, the PSGP has awarded over $560 million to over 1,200 projects. The review was intended to determine if that money had been well spent and to make recommendations for improving future spending.

Some of the review committee's findings include:

  1. The current design of the PSGP compromises its ability to direct resources toward the nation's highest priorities.
  2. The PSGP is faced with competing pressures of ofsetting the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 while making competitive and risk based grant decisions to protect the nation's most critical ports and port facilities.
  3. The PSGP did not have the benefit of national key asset and critical infrastructure protection information now being developed by the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) Directorate. The PSGP and the IAIP didn't collaborate.
  4. Grant award decisions are made with the intent of expending all available funding and spreading funds to as many applicants as possible. Field evaluations of specific programs were frequently overruled by headquarters reviewers.
  5. Private entities (as opposed to public port authorities) applied for and received funding. Public dollars were spent to benefit private entities. In part, this was because it was difficult to determine where the private sector's responsibility for preventing terorism ends and where the federal government's responsibility begins.
  6. At each level of the application and review process, reviewers were challenged to meet short deadlines to evaluate, rate, and rank projects. This affected reviewers' ability to document thoroughly their decisions and made subsequent levels of review more difficult.
  7. After three rounds of the PSGP, recipients had spent only a small portion of the amount awarded. As a result, the majority of projects funded have not been completed and the program has not yet achieved its intended results in actual improvements to port security.

The Inspector General's report includes detailed recommendations to correct the deficiencies it found.


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