Senate panel OKs rail, maritime security bills

The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday approved two bipartisan bills that would increase the amount of federal funding for rail and maritime security efforts by $4 billion.

The committee reported out two measures that would add $2 billion over five years for each effort. The rail security legislation requires the Homeland Security and Transportation departments to conduct a vulnerability study on security efforts, and would authorize $100 million over the next two years for research and development.

The bill also would set up a $350 million grant program for infrastructure improvements nationwide, and it would authorize $670 million over five years for tunnel security improvements in New York, Baltimore and Washington. It also incorporates a whistleblower protection provision for rail workers who disclose security-related problems.

The maritime security bill approved Thursday would devote $400 million annually over five years to raise security efforts at the nation's ports, including increased tracking of intermodal cargo, increased research on blast-resistant vessels, and infrastructure improvement. Originally, the legislation directed the Homeland Security Department to enact a user fee to fund the increased security spending.

However, the committee approved an amendment by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., striking the user fee language from the bill. Lott said these security efforts should be funded through customs fees paid by port users.

"The money is there," Lott said. "It should be used to pay for these improvements, instead of being used by everybody for all sorts of things," including energy bill provisions and welfare funding, Lott said.

But Commerce ranking member Ernest (Fritz) Hollings, D-S.C., said Lott's amendment in essence turns the bill into an unfunded mandate, because there is no language in it preventing customs fees from being used for non-germane projects.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.