Inspector General report blasts port security priorities

Published: Thursday March 16, 2006

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A report to be released today by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security will detail failings in security at America's ports, RAW STORY has learned.

The report was required by an Amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill authored by Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

Though the Inspector General does identify some improvements over last year's evaluation that there was "no assurance that the program is protecting the nationís most critical and vulnerable infrastructure," it still seriously calls into question the security of American ports, at one point noting that "it is not clear that DHS knows how much actual risk reduction has been achieved."

An inconsistent system of evaluation by officials was one major problem identified by the report, which called for a more uniform system of score-keeping. More troublesome, however, is the fact that certain projects scored a 0 on that same 35-point national priority threat scale, but still received government funding while other projects, deemed worthy by the OIG, did not.

20 projects totalling $29.4 million in government spending failed to receive a score of 20 (the number automatically awarded for ports marked a "national security priority"). These projects total one fifth of the grant funds awarded. Many failed even to score the 5 points awarded for protecting local or maritime interests, or being deemed "cost effective".

$236,000 were spent to light a bridge that received a score of 0, deemed inconsistent even with local security interests. Over $3,000 were granted to purchase back-up generators for a lighting system that had actually already been itself denied funding.

Still, projects that scored much higher on the scale were denied funding. Kerry's office points to a plan for a central dispatch that scored 25 on the scale that was still denied funding. The DHS field review stated one project denied funding, "dramatically reduces the risk for all these critical infrastructures and enables all local law enforcement, as well as Federal and industrial agencies to respond to any potential threats."

Privately owned security projects, a source of controversy since the Dubai ports deal, were rated as disproportionately wasteful. 12 of the 20 programs rated a score of 0 by the Inspector General were private projects. These projects also raked in money for big business, with one company that netted 3rd quarter profits of $2.2 billion receiving a grant in the amount of $2 million to upgrade its fencing and surveillance equipment.

Read the full report in PDF format here.