Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HR 3619 Passed in House

On Friday the House passed HR 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, on a recorded vote of 385-11. There were a number of floor amendments made to this bill, though none had any affect on the chemical security related concerns that I addressed in my earlier blog on this bill. There are a number of new provisions that might be of interest to the chemical security community. Security Awareness Section 1101 was expanded to provide for a more comprehensive program to encourage reporting of potential terrorist or criminal activity around vessels and port facilities. Rather than just being targeted at the recreational boating community, the revised America’s Waterway Watch Act is now looking at bringing all citizens into the voluntary and anonymous reporting program. The bill is allocating $3 million for each fiscal year through 2015 to support this program through educational materials and training programs. Semi-Submersibles Section 1332 was added requiring the Secretary to develop a “comprehensive strategy to combat the illicit flow of narcotics, weapons, bulk cash, and other contraband through the use of submersible and semi-submersible vessels”. To date these vessels have been periodically intercepted with cargoes of illegal drugs, but as I mentioned in a blog last year, these could certainly be used in attacks against chemical facilities located at ports. Homeland Security Mission Section 1333 was added to make it clear that the homeland security mission of the Coast Guard take priority over the marine safety mission. That homeland security mission includes protecting ports, waterways and marine transportation systems from acts of terrorism as well as preventing the flow of illegal firearms and weapons of mass destruction through those same facilities. Moving Forward The bill was received in the Senate on Monday, but as of Tuesday afternoon had not yet been assigned to a committee, though it will almost certainly be assigned to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Many provisions of this legislation were already included in a bill (S 1385) that was co-sponsored by Chairman Rockefeller, so I suspect that this bill will probably see prompt action in that Committee.

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