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House committee approves transportation security bill

The House Homeland Security Committee approved a transportation security bill  on June 6 that would beef up port security and streamline transportation workers’ documentation.

The bill now moves on for consideration by the full House.

The committee passed H.R. 4251, the SMART Port Security Act, introduced by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), chairman of the subcommittee on border and maritime security that aims to enhance maritime security programs under DHS. The bill contains language introduced by the committee’s minority leader Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) that would extend validity of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs) for port workers.

The committee said the bill reduces redundancies by allowing DHS to recognize other countries’ Trusted Shipper Programs, in addition to allowing the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to recognize other governments’ or organizations’ port security threat assessments;

It also requires DHS to update the Maritime Operations Coordination Plan to enhance interagency cooperation.

It would also commission a report to study possible cost savings from having the USCG and Customs and Border Protection share facilities, as well as requiring CBP to use standard practices and risk-based assessments when deploying assets;

Under the bill’s provisions, changes to the Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) program would also be implemented to prompt DHS to install readers, improve efficiency for enrollees, and prevent unauthorized use.

Minority leader Thompson hailed the TWIC changes, saying they would extend the validity of the documents for longshoremen, truckers, merchant mariners, and rail and vessel crew members that have undergone extensive background checks and paid a $132.50 fee to obtain the cards.   “Compelling hardworking Americans to undertake the expense and hassle of renewing their cards is not justifiable given that the basic requirements for biometric readers to match these cards with the cardholders have not been issue by the Department of Homeland Security,” said a statement from Thompson’s office on June 6.

The legislation requires DHS to complete a detailed strategic plan for global supply chain security.  In January, the Obama Administration published a six-page Global Supply Chain Security Strategy, which was the focus of a Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing, said the committee.  H.R. 4251 requires a more in-depth approach to global supply chain security with a focus on providing incentives for the private sector and measurable goals, it said.