Sheriff Asks Congress for More Money to Patrol Port
"At the end of the day, it comes down to the ability of someone to patrol in a patrol boat or a patrol car," he told the House Homeland Security Committee's Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.
More funding "is not something I want, it's something we need," he said.
The Sheriff's Office noted that "the Port of Houston leads the nation in foreign tonnage and the Ship Channel area is home to petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing and commercial waterway traffic that are key to the global economy. Intelligence from the late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's compound indicated the terrorist group had considered targeting the kind of oil tankers that routinely travel in the Channel."
The HCSO is responsible for patrolling the port. Garcia told the panel that a countywide hiring freeze has affected his ability to provide enough staffing to do the job.
The HCSO highlighted members agreeing with Garcia:
Members of the committee pointed out that Congress is trying to cut federal spending, but that providing for homeland security is crucial.
[Rep. Candice] Miller, the chairwoman, said Congress will provide less funding, not more, to local government agencies in general. But, she said, "the first and foremost responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. That is in the Constitution."
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia, said it appeared the Harris County Sheriff's Office's Ship Channel work would usually be the federal government's responsibility.
"I'd say here, even as a strong fiscal conservative, (that) we have to make sure you are funded," Rigell said