Legislation that directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a study of gaps in US port security passed the U.S. House of Representatives June 28 on a 411 to 9 vote.
H.R. 4005, commonly known as the “Gauging American Port Security Act” or GAPS Act, also directs Homeland Security submit to Congress a classified report on the security holes that includes a prioritization of existing loopholes and a plan for addressing them.
The bill is sponsored by California Congresswoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.
“The loopholes that continue to exist in port security keeps me up at night,” Hahn said.
“Ports are a huge piece of our economy and an attack or disruption would have a disastrous impact on American jobs and the economy,” she explained. “We will be able to better protect our ports and their contributions to our economy if we know where the weaknesses are and have a plan to address them therefore I’m very pleased this bipartisan and common sense piece of legislation has passed.”
“My first question as a member of the Homeland Security Committee was to Lee Hamilton, vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, on what Congress should be doing to protect our ports. Mr. Hamilton’s response that Congress wasn’t focused enough on our ports meant we needed to act.”
Ships make about 50,000 calls a year on U.S. ports, carrying two billion tons of freight and 134 million passengers, according to federal statistics.
American ports import and export about $3.8 billion worth of goods daily through all 50 states according to the data, plus move 99.4 percent of overseas cargo volume by weight and generate $3.95 trillion in international trade.
However, according to the Department of Homeland Security, less than three percent of cargo coming into the country is scanned.