Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Port Security Hearing Update

Earlier this week I wrote about tomorrow’s field hearing looking at port security in the Port of Houston. The House Homeland Security web site now has more information available about the witnesses that are scheduled to testify. The witnesses list does include the local Coast Guard Sector Commander, but there will be no one from ISCD representing the CFATS side of the Port.

The reason for that is found in a Committee Press release that provides Chairman McCaul’s (R,TX) reason for calling the meeting:

“Osama bin Laden’s personal files found in his compound in Pakistan revealed a brazen idea to blow up oil tankers.  The Port of Houston is perhaps the most target-rich environment.  In addition to the tragic loss of life that would occur, an attack that stops the flow of roughly 25 percent of America’s oil imports could cripple our already struggling economy.  If catastrophe struck the Port of Houston, there is little spare capacity to import and refine crude oil elsewhere in the country.  Securing this high value target is essential to our national and economic security.  This hearing will examine security in place to prevent such an attack, as well as measures not yet implemented.”

So the apparent emphasis will be on the water side of the port; except that the witness list also includes the Harris County Sheriff. I guess that we’ll just have to wait and see. Two other local officials representing the Port of Houston Authority and the Greater Houston Port Bureau, Inc. are also scheduled to testify.

The only ‘outsider’ testifying is a Government Accounting Office representative. This inevitably means that there will be a GAO report presented at this hearing. Mr. Stephen Caldwell is the
Director Maritime and Coast Guard Issues for the Homeland Security and Justice Team at the GAO. That means that the report could cover a wide variety of port security issues and need not be limited to issues affecting just the Houston Port.

Still no word about the possible appearance of Rep. Jackson-Lee (D, TX) or Rep. Gene Green (D, TX) at the hearing. Neither of their web sites mentions the hearing.

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