By Pete Kasperowicz – The Hill
The House this week plans to pass a handful of bills aimed at requiring improved coordination between the federal and state governments on port security, and an assessment of remaining security gaps at ports.
The Securing Maritime Activities Through Risk-based Targeting for Port Security Act, from Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Coast Guard to cooperate more in their efforts to ensure port security. It would also boost measures overseas to ensure safer cargo, and encourage more cooperation between the federal and local levels.
“In an era of tight budgetary times, we must ensure that we are making the best use of limited taxpayer dollars,” Miller said earlier this year when she introduced her bill. “My legislation seeks to guard against these threats in a risk-based, coordinated way that enhances the programs in place to protect our maritime borders.”
Her bill, H.R. 4251, would require DHS to submit a plan for improved coordination to Congress by July 1, 2014.
Another bill, from Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), would require DHS to submit another report that assesses gaps in port security, as well as a plan for addressing those gaps. Her bill, H.R. 4005, is the Gauging American Port Security (GAPS) Act.
Also up this week is H.R. 5889, the Nuclear Terrorism Conventions Implementation and Safety of Maritime Navigation Act. This bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) would make it easier to capture suspected terrorists at sea, and increases penalties against anyone trying to use weapons of mass destruction from or against maritime vessels, or against fixed maritime platforms.
The House is also expected to pass a bill that would make it easier for workers in marine facilities or at sea to renew their Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs). Currently, these workers have to appear twice at an enrollment center to get this credential.
The bill — HR. 3173, from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) — would reduce that to one visit.
While not related to maritime security, the House will also approve H.R. 1447, which would require DHS to establish an Aviation Security Advisory Committee to advise on security matters. That bill is from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
These and other bills will be brought up under a suspension of House rules, usually reserved for non-controversial bills. Voting on them will start Tuesday night, but some might be considered later in the week.