House Homeland Security Committee addresses port security

The House Homeland Security Committee unanimously passed the Gauging American Port Security Act, or GAPS act, at a committee markup meeting on Wednesday.

The GAPS act, H.R. 4005, was introduced by Representative Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), and will direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a thorough study into potential gaps in US port security.

"Our ports remain one of our country's greatest economic resources, and [they provide] our nation with a link to the rest of the world and our global economy," Hahn said. "Because of their importance, ports continue to face emerging threats that are unique only to them."

Hahn said that there are many ways in which a terrorist could smuggle a bomb into an American port and cited a recent Congressional Research Service report that warned that "a 10-20 kiloton weapon detonated in a major seaport would kill 50,000 to one million people and would result in direct property damage of $50 to $500 billion, losses due to trade disruption of $100 to $200 billion, and indirect costs of $300 billion to $1.2 trillion...This is simply an unacceptable risk we must act upon."

In addition to the study, the GAPS act would also require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a classified report to Congress. The report would outline remaining gaps in US port security, and include a prioritized plan for addressing them.

The bill was ordered to be reported to the House floor with a favorable recommendation by the House Homeland Security Committee.