SHERIFF GARCIA WARNS CONGRESS ABOUT PORT SECURITY FUNDING GAPS
HOUSTON – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia today told a U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee today that the county needs more federal law enforcement funds to provide personnel to go with the technology and organizational efforts that help protect the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel from potential terrorist attacks.
“We have a true ring of steel,” the sheriff said of surveillance equipment and other technologies used by the Sheriff’s Office to monitor the ship channel area. “We are light years ahead of other communities.”
“But at the end of the day, we need blood, sweat and tears to be able to monitor those systems,” he said in response to questions from members of Congress.
Sheriff Garcia was among witnesses who told a field hearing of the Oversight, Investigations and Management Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that more personnel are needed to augment the Houston area’s homeland security “hardware” and the efforts of private industries and law enforcement agencies to work together on preventing attacks. Congress has provided funding for equipment but not for payroll.
Subcommittee ranking Democrat William Keating of Massachusetts attended with McCaul, along with U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston.
As the lead law enforcement agency of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, the Sheriff’s Office uses surveillance equipment at the ship channel on a 24-hours, 7-days-a-week basis and patrols the area by boat, car and airplane. But patrols are limited by a lack of funding for personnel amid a county government freeze on hiring by county agencies.
Sheriff Garcia told committee members that their congressional colleagues need to realize that federal support of security in the ship channel area is crucial to protecting high-profile security assets such as the oil tankers, petrochemical plans and refineries and that supply much of the nation’s energy needs. Documents seized at the compound of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s compound discussed possible plans to attack oil tankers in the U.S.
“We made a commitment” to protect against terrorist acts, Sheriff Garcia said. “I want to be able to honor that commitment.”
Sheriff Garcia said the federal government should also back local anti-terrorism community engagement programs such as his Incident Response Team, which he formed to exchange information, concerns and safety initiatives with the county’s growing South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. Garcia's Written Testimony