From the start,
U.S. officials have contended that they faithfully followed the
process created by Congress to ensure that national security issues
are addressed when foreign companies invest in the United States.
In short, the officials argue that they performed the due diligence
that Congress required of them. They have also explained that the
UAE holding company, Dubai Ports World, is not buying U.S. ports or
the right to oversee port security, but merely ownership of a
company that operates some port facilities. This ownership provides
Dubai Ports World no unique access or opportunities to make
mischief because security requirements at the port would be the
same for any company, foreign-owned or not. These points are true,
but they ignore a broader truth. Concern about port security is
reasonable. America's ports are vulnerable. Americans want to know
why that is and what can be done to make U.S. ports safer.
The Truth About Port Security
has a number of programs already underway to secure U.S. ports.
They will not make ports 100 percent secure. Ports are designed to
move masses of things quickly, and that is a large part of what
makes seaborne transport a bargain. Trying to turn a port into Fort
Knox is a bad strategy that would undermine maritime trade. The
best way to make a port safe is to keep bad things and bad people
out of the port to begin with. That requires three initiatives:
- Fund the U.S.
Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is central to every aspect of
maritime security at home and overseas, and yet its modernization
program has been chronically underfunded. Its ships, planes, and
sensors are old and outdated. Congress needs to shift spending from
wasteful port security grants to real security by investing in the
Public-Private Information Sharing. The U.S. government needs
to focus its intelligence and law enforcement assets on the direst
threats. That requires access to commercial information that helps
it to understand the global supply chain. Right now, all of this
information-whether concerning U.S. or foreign-owned ports and
shipping-is not available in a usable format. The U.S. must require
more and better data before cargo is loaded on ships bound for its
Cooperation is Essential. The weakest links in the chain right
now are not modern ports like in Los Angles, New York, Singapore,
and Dubai, but ports and shippers in the developing world. A
concerted international effort will be required to ensure that
developing countries can meet global shipping and port security
Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National
Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage
The sale of a London-based firm that operates facilities at six
major U.S. ports to a government-owned company in the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) has raised national security concerns.
Administration officials have failed to answer them. They have not
done a good job explaining why Americans should worry about U.S.
port security and what needs to be done to secure the maritime
domain. Now that the Administration has Americans' attention on
this issue, it needs address the heart of the matter.