House-Senate Negotiators OK Fort Dix Six' Provision
Base security steps, uniform background checks @ U.S. bases result of Saxton amendment; Backed by Andrews, LoBiondo, Smith
Congressman Jim Saxton (NJ-3rd) today announced that his amendment to improve U.S. military base security around the nation has been included in the Senate-House conference report on the FY2008 Defense Authorization bill. A final vote by the full House is expected this week.
The provision ensures that real world threats which exist at our domestic installations are addressed by requiring the Pentagon to create a uniform system for screening all installation visitors each time they want to enter a base. At a minimum, these procedures must develop protocols for determining the fitness of an individual for entry and ways to verify their identity. Required by July 2008, the procedures will consider such factors as a person's criminal record and any past actions that could indicate a potential security threat for the installation. The bill also has flexibility for military families who live on bases and civilian workers, and encourages the use of new technologies in security systems.
"The terrorist threat to Fort Dix and McGuire AFB is the same threat faced by most of our bases around the nation," said Saxton, Ranking Member of the Air Land Forces Subcommittee that oversees the Army and Air Force, and founder of the first House Terrorism Subcommittee in 2002. "The Department of Defense needs a consistent policy, and this provision does that. Rob, Frank, Chris and I worked together on this. We make a good team."
As is his trademark for trying to address future threats from a distance, Saxton saw the need for improving base security years ago. In the wake of the arrests of scores of undocumented workers on Fort Dix and McGuire AFB (both secured military installations), Saxton wrote a bill in 2003 with the support of Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ-04), Rob Andrews (NJ-01) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02). Following the "Fort Dix Six" plot, the four Members revived the effort they started in 2003.
Congressman LoBiondo, a rising member of the House Armed Services Committee, was pleased with the development.
"I applaud Representative Saxton for his continued leadership on military issues and his championing of this bipartisan legislation which requires background checks on people attempting to enter military bases," said Rep. LoBiondo. "Background checks will help secure sensitive facilities and provide an additional layer of security for our servicemen and women. I was pleased to join fellow New Jersey Representatives Saxton, Andrews and Smith on this vital legislation."
Congressman Andrews, also a rising member of the Armed Services Committee, highlighted the need for a common security standard at U.S. bases.
"Establishing uniform security standards for federal background checks for all civilians entering military bases and making those checks mandatory are vital to protecting the people serving on or living near military bases in New Jersey and across the nation," said Rep. Rob Andrews. "I want to thank Rep. Saxton for his leadership on this important issue and his commitment to protecting the men and women who serve in our nation's armed forces. I look forward to President Bush signing this into law."
Congressman Smith, the dean of the New Jersey delegation, pointed out the need for base security across the nation.
"Mandated background checks will absolutely enhance security at our bases not just in New Jersey, but nationwide," said Rep. Smith. "The incident at Ft. Dix demonstrates that we need to be ever vigilant and use every tool at our disposal. I commend Rep. Jim Saxton for ensuring this provision is included in the conference report and look forward to continuing to work with him and Reps. LoBiondo and Andrews to improve base security."
In the wake of the Fort Dix terrorist plot and arrests, Saxton, Andrews, Smith and LoBiondo originally planned to unveil a new base security bill. Instead of introducing a bill, however, Saxton successfully attached the legislation as an amendment to the main 2008 Defense Authorization Act passed by the House. The compromise bill now heads to the full House and Senate for final passage.