Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed two bills to help bolster U.S. border security.
The first bill, the Securing Maritime Activities through Risk-based Targeting (SMART) Port Security Act (H.R. 4251), was introduced by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. H.R. 4251 aims to increase information sharing and efficient use of technology within the Department of Homeland Security, and between federal, state, and local governments and the private sector, in an effort to improve maritime and aviation security at U.S. ports of entry.
In addition, H.R. 4251:
- Requires the DHS Secretary to report to Congress on the vulnerability of U.S. maritime borders to attacks by small marine vessels. (§110)
- Requires the DHS Secretary to submit a plan to Congress detailing the best staffing levels for Customs and Border Protection personnel to carry out all necessary border security functions. (§111)
- Authorizes $4 million to create a new joint program with Canada, the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Operations Program, to coordinate security along the U.S.-Canada maritime border. The program will include training on detecting illegal border-crossing activity as well as increased sharing of information between the two countries. (§112-113)
- Establishes a pilot project for unmanned aerial vehicles along the northern border for border and maritime security missions. (§114)
- Secures the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) against use by illegal aliens, by requiring the DHS Secretary to provide a list of acceptable documents that guarantee TWIC eligibility. (§207) TWIC is a biometric card used by individuals such as port facility employees, merchant mariners, and truck drivers to gain access to secure areas of ports or vessels. (Read more about TWIC here)
The second border security-related bill the House passed is H.R. 4005, the Gauging American Port Security (GAPS) Act, introduced by Rep. Janice Hahn (R-CA). This legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a report on any existing gaps or weaknesses in U.S. port security, as well as a plan for addressing such gaps. (H.R. 4005 at § 2) The Secretary is also required by this bill to share information and plans to address weaknesses with federal agencies, as well as state, local, and tribal governments, and port system owners and operators. (Id. at § 3)