Savannah to get another $2.7 million in port security grant funds

By Mary Carr Mayle, Savannah Morning News, Ga.

The Department of Homeland Security dropped another $2.7 million in Savannah’s port security pot Tuesday as part of an overall $288 million port security grant allocation for fiscal 2010.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the port security grants as part of a total of $2.7 billion in funding to strengthen the nation’s ability to prevent, protect, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.

“These grants play a major role in our efforts to work with our state, local and private-sector partners to build a national culture of readiness and resilience,” Napolitano said Tuesday.

“This year’s guidance focuses on maximizing efficiency and value while prioritizing risk in awarding grants to strengthen our nation’s security.”

At the Port of Savannah, the $2.7 million will be added to $5.4 million announced last spring for fiscal 2009 and another $2.4 million remaining from fiscal 2008, making a total of $10.6 million available for the port and its related businesses and agencies.

Page Siplon, executive director of the Center of Innovation for Logistics at Georgia Tech Savannah — and local fiduciary agent for the grant funds — hosted a meeting Tuesday morning for all interested parties, where he outlined the priorities, requirements and application process.

National priorities for rounds 8, 9 and 10 include:

— Enhancing maritime domain awareness.

— Enhancing Improvised Explosive Device prevention, protection, response and recovery capabilities.

— Training and exercises.

— Efforts supporting implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC.

Savannah regional port priorities include:

— Integrated portwide risk management.

— Networked surveillance, detection, monitoring and access control.

— Information management and intelligence analysis.

— Portwide partnerships.

— Response systems.

— Strengthening communication.

There are a number of ways in which the rounds differ, Siplon said.

“For example, a 25 percent cash match is required for Round 8 funds, while the match for Round 9 can be cash and/or in kind, and there’s no match required for the latest round,” he said.

Tier of needs

Since 2002, Homeland Security has provided grants to the nation’s ports to deal with potential terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.

“The first couple of years, it was all about the basics — lighting, fencing and such,” Siplon said.

Then, once those priorities were addressed, ports were taking a step back and looking at the next tier of needs. And, just as the needs became more sophisticated, so did the process of determining and addressing those needs.

Several years ago, port areas were divided into groups according to their level of risk. The Savannah port area falls into Group II.

Last year, Homeland Security began requiring each of the Group I and Group II port areas to develop a long-range plan specific to that port and compatible with national priorities.

And, in a shift designed to push more of the decision-making to the local level, Group I and Group II ports also have been encouraged to designate local fiduciary agents — Siplon in Georgia’s case — through which the security grant money will flow.

“My job is not to decide where the money goes, but to serve as the banker,” Siplon said. “It helps streamline the process so groups here aren’t waiting for someone in Washington, D.C., to cut their checks.”

Applications are due Feb. 19.

U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Lonnie Harrison, Savannah’s Captain of the Port, said he was satisfied with both the process and the port’s allocation.

“This is a bureaucratic process … but it’s important to make sure Savannah gets a fair shake,” he said.

Last year, Harrison created an independent panel to review the applications and make recommendations.

“No one in that group has a particular stake one way or the other, so they can be impartial,” Harrison said. “It worked very well last year. Everyone got something.”

As for the amount, Harrison said he thinks the area has been fortunate.

“Savannah has had adequate funds to support all its projects,” he said. “We aren’t getting shortchanged.”

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