Acting Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Admiral James Loy reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to expand both its port and cargo security initiatives and its cross-border Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program given the beefed up $41.1 billion 2006 DHS budget proposed by the President.

This marks a 7% jump over the fiscal year 2005 budget.

“Currently there are U.S. Customs inspectors in 34 international ports of trade working alongside our allies to target and screen high-risk cargo before it reaches our shores,” according to Loy’s prepared statement for the Border Trade Alliance Annual Conference. “The 2006 budget allocates $138.8 million more to this effort.”

Additionally, Loy pledged to ease commercial truck traffic along the U.S.-Mexico border as seven more FAST ports are slated to go up “in the coming months.”

“We currently clear 15% of our bilateral trade through these dedicated lanes,” said Loy. “We want the percentage to increase significantly in the next year.”