England Discusses Port Security Issue on Capitol Hill
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2006 The Defense Department's No. 2 civilian today endorsed the United Arab Emirates as a valued ally of the United States that can be entrusted to manage shipping terminal operations at a group of major U.S. ports.
"They are a friend and ally of the United States, and they do stand side by side with us in this war on terror," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said before the Senate Armed Services Committee here.
Committee Chairman Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia had called for legislators to be briefed by departments of Defense, State, Treasury and other senior officials in response to public outcries that Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates company, should not be allowed to manage ship loading and offloading operations at six major U.S. ports.
Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates government, bought British-owned ports operator Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which managed port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Dubai Ports World is responsible for operations at the United Arab Emirates port at Jabal Ali, England pointed out, where "we rely on them, frankly, for the security of our forces there."
The U.S. Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States inspects sales of firms that could impact national security. CFIUS, which includes White House officials and members of the president's cabinet, had approved Dubai Ports World taking over operations at the specified U.S. ports.
England said the Defense Department was among several government agencies, including the departments of State and Homeland Security, which participated in an in-depth and comprehensive review of the ports issue.
"During this review process there were no issues raised by any agency within DoD, including our U.S. Transportation Command, and that is significant because that was a special review measure we'd put in place to ensure that any military transportation security issue would be identified," England said.
President Bush today reiterated his support for Dubai Ports World to take over the specified port operations during a brief meeting with reporters that followed a cabinet meeting.
"The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure," Bush said. Port security operations in the United States would continue to be provided by U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard, he said.
"People don't need to worry about security," Bush emphasized. "This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security of the United States of America."
It is "imperative to get a full set of facts before the American public so they could in an informed way reach their own individual opinions on this," Warner said before England spoke.
"We respect the concerns of those that have been expressed thus far, but I think these facts will help allay some of those concerns," Warner said.