The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to protect ports since Sept. 11, 2001, without sufficiently focusing on those that are most vulnerable, says the New York Times. That policy could compromise the nation’s ability to defend against terrorist attacks, the department’s inspector general concluded. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went to redundant lighting systems and unnecessary technical equipment, the audit found, but “the program has not yet achieved its intended results in the form of actual improvement in port security.”
Under one fourth of the $517 million that the department distributed in grants between June 2002 and December 2003 had been spent as of September 2004, the inspector general found. The report questioned whether grants allocated for small projects in resort areas and some remote locations should have been considered as critical to national security needs as larger projects at ports that are more vital to the national economy. In remarks included in the audit, a Homeland Security official said the department had taken the higher risk factor of larger ports into account. Ninety-five percent of all international commerce enters the U.S. through its roughly 360 public and private ports. Nearly 80 percent of the trade moves through only 10 ports, with the biggest loads in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland in California and New York. That is why the largest ports are seen as particularly attractive as terrorist targets.