From: The Honorable J. Randy Forbes
Sent By: Christopher.Maneval@mail.house.gov
Date: 6/20/2016

Sign Letter Demanding Action from Secretary Jeh Johnson Regarding Security Screening and Staffing Challenges at Our Nation’s Seaports.

Letter Closes COB Friday, June 24th

Current cosigners: Ted Poe, J. Randy Forbes, Janice Hahn, Kathy Castor, Randy Weber, Gene Green, Grace Napolitano, Corinne Brown, Julia Brownley, Alan Lowenthal, Scott Peters.

Dear Colleague,

Though TSA wait times and airport staffing shortages have stolen the headlines over the past few months, we are concerned that the Department of Homeland Security is heading down a similar path of neglect regarding screening and staffing shortages at our nation’s seaports.

Our Ports handle more than 11 million maritime containers and over 11 million international passengers each year, and container traffic at U.S. ports is projected to grow at an annual rate of 5% between 2016 and 2030. Despite this, when Congress gave the
CBP funds to hire 2000 additional staffers and improve screening capacity in 2014, fewer than 10 agents were assigned to seaports.  This muted response from CBP and DHS has led to repeated dock-side delays in inspecting and clearing cargo, and has created
a ripple effect throughout our economy and supply chain.

We invite you to join us in calling on Secretary Johnson to focus on addressing the security screening and staffing challenges facing our nation’s seaports.

For more information, or to sign your boss on to the letter, please contact Chris Maneval in Representative Forbes’ office (Christopher.Maneval@mail.house.gov), Michael Edwards
in Representative Poe’s office (Michael.Edwards@mail.house.gov), Jocelyn Rivera-Olivas in Representative Hahn’s office (Jocelyn.Rivera-Olivas@mail.house.gov),
or Kevin Karpay in Representative Castor’s office (Kevin.Karpay@mail.house.gov).

Sincerely,

 

Ted Poe                                                                       J. Randy Forbes

Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

 

 

Janice Hahn                                                                 Kathy Castor

Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

 

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June XX, 2016

The Honorable Jeh Johnson

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Johnson:

Thank you for your service and your dedication to protecting and securing our country. We recognize and support your Department’s ongoing efforts to improve security and alleviate passenger wait-times in our nation’s airports.  However, as you are well aware, our nation’s security is a multi-faceted challenge.  As DHS addresses the ongoing challenges associated with aviation security, we ask that you also focus long overdue resources to our maritime ports and resolve the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) staffing shortages facing the passenger and freight facilities that connect directly with our communities.

In Fiscal Year 2015, when CBP was funded to hire 2000 staff, fewer than 10 agents were assigned to seaports. We cannot let this disproportionate approach to security continue. Our nation’s seaports handle more than 11 million maritime containers and over 11 million international passengers each year.   Annual increases in volume and periodic surges in ship traffic, paired with a muted response from the Department, have led to repeated dock-side delays in inspecting and clearing cargo, creating a ripple effect throughout our economy and supply chain.

To address these shortages, port authorities have utilized an array of tools to keep cargo and passengers moving through their terminals.  One such tool is the congressionally authorized pilot 559 program, which allows ports to pay the overtime costs of CBP personnel when additional hours of screening are required. While this flexibly was meant to serve as avenue for relief, it is not a cost that our ports can afford to bear in the long-term.  The need for a permanent solution remains.

Moreover, as Members of Congress we stand ready and willing to assist the Department in addressing CBP’s current staffing issues.  In April, the House unanimously approved legislation to help enhance the operational capacity of CBP services with the passage
of the Border and Maritime Coordination Improvement Act, H.R. 3586.  Language was also included in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to enable CBP to expedite the hiring process for applicants with a military background.  These
are important steps in the right direction; however, more must be done to ensure that the staffing shortages at our seaports are addressed.

We, therefore, urge you to take this opportunity to address CBP staffing issues at our nation’s seaports, in addition to our air and land ports of entry.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ted Poe                                                                                    J. Randy Forbes

Members of Congress                                                              Member of Congress

 

Janice Hahn                                                                             Kathy Castor

Member of Congress                                                                Member of Congress

 

 

CC:

The Honorable John Carter, Chairman Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ranking Member Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

The Honorable John Hoeven Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Appropriation Subcommittee on Homeland Security