Port Officials Say They're Ready to Handle Department of Homeland Security Shutdown

Port of Long Beach California -4

According to the New York Times, House Republicans Friday could not pass their own proposal today to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks in a last-ditch effort to avoid its partial shutdown. The proposal fell by 224 to 203 votes, hours before the money is set to run out at midnight Eastern Time. According to the article, the Senate passed its own legislation this morning in an effort to fund the Department through the fiscal year.

Port of Long Beach Director of Security Randy Parsons told CNS earlier today that a stoppage of a few days and up to a week could dramatically affect the security of the maritime environment. Parsons also told CNS that DHS grant workers are considered non-essential personnel and would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown, meaning delays in processing grant applications and doling out funds. He said such grants "fund a lot of operations within the ports."

Phillip Sanfield, spokesman at the Port of Los Angeles, told CNS earlier today, "From what we understand, the Coast Guard will maintain normal operations with minimal impact."

Sanfield continued to explain that while the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection may end up shorthanded, they still intend to move and inspect the cargo.

PREVIOUSLY  |  In light of a possible partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, which is set to run out of money today, according to the New York Times article, due to an ongoing battle between congressional Republicans trying to stymie President Barack Obama’s actions toward immigration reform, port officials said today that they have contingency plans ready to avert the problems caused if the Department is forced to shut down.

Port of Long Beach Director of Security Randy Parsons told City News Service, “Unfortunately, we’ve been down this road before with sequestration and other congressional up-to-the-last-minute deadline situations. So we do have some experience with this. I can say we’re in communication with our federal partners… We have contingency plans in place. We know what they’re going to be able to do and (how) they may have to alter their operations a little bit.”

Parsons told CNS that DHS grant workers are considered non-essential personnel and would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown, meaning delays in processing grant applications and doling out funds. He said such grants “fund a lot of operations within the ports.”

“That's something that we haven't seen before, so on a grants side, it will be interesting to see how this shapes up, particularly if the stoppage goes on for any length of time,'' Parsons told CNS. “A few days to a week can dramatically impact the security of the maritime environment.''

According to CNS, Parsons and Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles (POLA), said that harbor officials are maintaining good communication with the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection so they can be prepared for any damaging impacts if the funding debate isn’t resolved in Congress.

“From what we understand, the Coast Guard will maintain normal operations with minimal impact,'' Sanfield told CNS. Customs and Border Protection agents who inspect the cargo being brought into the port have been “working ahead” as much as they can, but they might
experience some personnel shortages if a stalemate occurs, he said.

Sanfield continued to explain that while they may end up shorthanded, they still intend to move and inspect the cargo. And while a tentative agreement to the negotiations between the PMA and ILWU was reached last Friday, signaling an end to work slowdowns, Parsons noted that port security officials have had to be especially alert due to the large amount of vessels and stacked containers still sitting at the POLB.

Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, warned earlier this week that if an agreement is not reached on funding for the agency, grants to local public-safety agencies will be suspended and some DHS employees will be furloughed, according to CNS. Johnson said that about 80 percent of the workforce will still report for duty, despite having to deal with the uncertainty of when they might get paid.

 



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