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WASHINGTON — Army, Navy and Air Force officials found no security concerns with a plan to let a United Arab Emirates firm take over operations at several major U.S. ports and signed off on the deal, defense officials told Congress on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England described the country as a “friend and ally” and said reviews by each of the services found no security or strategic threats with the plan.

He also noted that Navy officials are already very familiar with the firm, Dubai Ports World, because the service makes more port calls in the United Arab Emirates than any other country outside the U.S. Last year alone, about 580 sealifts and 56 warships made a visit there, and more than 77,000 troops took leave in the country.

“They stand side by side with us in the war on terror,” he said.

England’s comments came at a special Senate hearing on the sale of port operations to DP World. Several Senate Democrats said they felt the review of the transfer by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was cursory and ignored congressional input, but the agencies that make up the review panel disagreed.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said federal investigators have been reviewing the transfer of operations since October and only recently approved the move. He also echoed remarks calling the United Arab Emirates a valued ally, and said officials were careful to make sure the review process was fair and thorough.

Earlier in the day, officials from the Department of Homeland Security emphasized that DP World would only operate terminals at the ports under the proposed business deal, not control or manage security there.

Kristi Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the Coast Guard will continue to provide security for ships in the ports and the Department of Homeland Security will continue to screen cargo at ports, she said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.

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