U.S. will still have control of six ports
Published 11:45 am Monday, February 27, 2006
Over the past week, I, along with many of you, have become increasingly concerned about the proposed sale of facilities at six American ports to a company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Dubai Ports World (DP World) of the UAE purchased the right to manage facilities at six ports in the United States: the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of New Orleans, the Port of Miami, the Port of Baltimore, the Port of Philadelphia and the Port of Newark.
We continue to fight the war on terror, and security must be our main priority. The vulnerability of our ports became a major concern following Sept. 11, 2001, and since then, security funding for our nation's ports has increased by more than 700 percent.
This proposed acquisition would place this UAE company in charge of running terminal facilities at these six ports, such responsibilities would include the loading and unloading of ships and storage containers and transferring cargo. According to the proposal, employees would still have to be United States' citizens or legal permanent residents.
DP World is not gaining control of our ports or the security of our ports. The Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and other federal agencies would continue to manage the security of our ports and ensure that all comply with these standards. The Department of Defense would continue to control the infrastructure that it uses to ship military goods.
Because our ports are a critically vulnerable aspect of our national security, these types of transactions must be carefully reviewed, which is why Congress created the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). This committee is charged with approving foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies to ensure national security is not threatened.
The CFIUS consists of 12 members: the secretaries of state, the treasury, defense, Homeland Security and Commerce; the United States Trade Representative; the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; the attorney general; the director of the Office of Management and Budget; the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the assistant to the president for National Security Affairs; and the assistant to the president for Economic Policy.
The committee has 30 days to decide whether to investigate an acquisition. By law, a more rigorous 45-day investigation can be required if “the acquirer is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government” and the acquisition “could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the United States.”
The DP World acquisition has already been approved by the CFIUS. The additional 45-day investigation was not required, and the transfer of port management was set to occur on March 2; however, late last week, DP World agreed not to take control of the management of these six ports until Congress has more time to review the transaction.
I, along with many of my colleagues, both in the House and Senate, have raised objections to this deal. Some are preparing to introduce legislation that would stop the CFIUS approval altogether and others are calling for congressional hearings.
In order to fully examine the effects of this potential acquisition on our national security, this deal must be placed on hold to provide additional time to ensure that the safety of the American people is not jeopardized. A close review will also ensure that the system in place to review the sale of foreign investments in the United States is working properly.
As we look into this transaction, it is important to remember that the UAE is an ally of the United States. It has been a key partner in the War on Terror – from providing access to its ports and territory, overflight clearances and other logistical support.
While keeping this in mind, many of us are aware that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were UAE citizens, money used to finance the Sept. 11 attacks was funneled through UAE banks, and it was a transfer point for nuclear components shipped to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. This is exactly why this is such a complicated issue, and we cannot rush to judgment.
A delay in the approval of this deal is a reasonable step towards ensuring that our national security is not compromised.
We must be careful that we do not rush to judgment on a decision of such critical importance to our safety.
Jo Bonner represents the people of this area in the U.S. H ouse of Representatives.