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9/11 Tragedies

Location: Washington, DC

9/11 TRAGEDIES -- (House of Representatives - September 13, 2006)


Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I thank you for that. I thank the gentleman from Florida for bringing this matter to the floor tonight, and I appreciate your comment ``fighting for the little guy'' with regard to the economic issue, and I think we are all fighting for the little guy and the middle guy and the big guy in the sense that we want to have security here at home for America.

What I would like to do, if I may, just spend a couple of minutes speaking about some of the strides we have made in this country through the efforts of this House to make America stronger. I will touch on some of the comments made on the other side of the aisle where they are saying we have not made improvements, specifically in the area of port security.

I represent the Fifth Congressional District in New Jersey, the very top of the State of New Jersey. The people I represent in the Fifth District of New Jersey remember all too well the events of September 11. We live in the shadows, really, of the former World Trade Center as well as three major airports, the second busiest port in the Nation, Newark, and a number of national landmarks as well, such as the Statue of Liberty. So the threat of another attack in our area looms very large in our daily lives. Ensuring that government is doing its best to prevent terror attacks and prepare should the worst occur is more than just an important part of my work here in Washington.

It is a matter of life and death for my neighbors and fellow New Jerseyans. This last Wednesday I had the opportunity to tour Newark Seaport, along with U.S. customs and border protection officials. Basically, I went there to assess current procedures and technologies, since I had been there several years before, to see what they are using now to detect and prevent future threats.

While I was there, there was obviously, still, always things that we can do to make our security more airtight. But what I saw on this tour was encouraging, to say the least. You know, terrorists consistently alter their techniques and targets that keep Americans guessing where and when they might attack next and where we might be most vulnerable.

So that means that we must remain one step ahead of them in every facet, and the funding we have allocated towards port security has really gone a large step in that direction.

When we awoke to the very real dangers of the contemporary world on September 11, 2001, you can say we were shocked to discover the dangers hidden in our unsecured trade infrastructure. But today we have a layered approach to port security that has significantly increased our safety, an approach that is improving daily with the development of new tools, new technology, new methods to ensure that our trade is safe, yet as efficient as possible.

Right now, and I want to make a note of this, right now 100 percent of all containers coming into ports shipped to the U.S. receive a risk assessment. Each and every container must have a detailed manifest that accurately depicts what is being shipped in it and we know who is sending it and receiving that container as well. We also have detailed data on their shipping habits in the past and we can prioritize our inspection efforts now.

So the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the past has led to the efforts to push our borders actually out past where our borders are, all the way back to where the manufacturers who are building those items come from, whether it is in another country or another continent, all those items that come into this country for our consumption.

We now have CBP officers at 44 ports around the world. That is up from zero prior to 2001. By the end of this year, CBP will have officers at 50 ports around the world. That represents 90 percent of all the trade bound for the U.S.

These officers work with the host countries there, and what they do is they inspect the containers before they are even loaded. Then there is radiation detectors at each of these ports to ensure that the trucks entering the port are scanned for the most dangerous of weapons.

As I said before, the terrorist seeks to exploit whatever our weakest link is and find the easiest way to find access to our Nation. Our allies and trading partners have recognized the great risk to worldwide trade posed by terrorists, and they are now volunteering with our Customs Trade-Partnership Against Terrorism Plan, that is the CT-PAT.

This effort allows us to work all the way back with the shippers, the manufacturers, to secure every aspect of trade, from the factory to the railcar to the truck all the way right here to our port. So by strengthening the security before even shipping items reach our stateside ports, we make our ports dramatically safer.

This goes to a point made on the other side saying that all the security at our ports now, when it comes to items coming into our country, are done at our ports. The fact of the matter is that is absolutely wrong, what they were saying. To reiterate, 44 ports around the world right now, it is going to be up to 50 by the end of the year, 90 percent of everything coming into this country.

After the attacks on September 11, the Federal Government invested millions of dollars into new technology to enhance our port security. Scanning equipment that was unheard of literally 5 years ago is now installed and working in each of these ports. I have seen this stuff. It is amazing.

The latest scanning technology can not only detect radiation, but it can even determine what type of radiation is present within that container by simply a single sweep of that container. It is fascinating. If you are not an engineer, as I am not, it is just amazing what they can do.

Now what they have is new technology, even newer than just a couple of years ago, and what they have done is replaced a three-step process down to a one-step process. So now the entire scan is done in one step, not three, and what this does, of course, is give the agents even more time to scan more containers.

In the State of New Jersey, where I am from, we are fortunate to have Rutgers University. What our university has done through Federal funding is establish a multi-disciplinary Port Security Laboratory and research facility, which I had the opportunity to look at as well. They are using homeland security funds to develop still better detection systems for the future in tracking container ships.

There are also private companies out there as well, besides universities. One such company is SI International. This company, that I had the opportunity to check out as well, they are engaged in some of the most amazing and greatest advances in military technology and they are turning to homeland security that I have ever seen or any of us have seen before, coming up daily with better innovations.

So I sit back not as an engineer just to marvel at this and I applaud all of the brilliant minds for their efforts to make Americans safer. As one Member of Congress, I sleep a little bit better knowing there are great minds out there that are working on these projects from a technical point of view.

We have come great strides, made great improvements since 9/11, and it is in part because of the actions of this House. Just recently, as you know, we have invested $1.2 billion in further appropriations to go for the Security and Accountability of Every Port Act to make sure all the ports have the latest in technology, training and personnel at them.

We must agree here today that we will continue to ensure that our homeland security officials have those resources to prevent future terrorist attacks from using our global trade system ever to take lives of Americans again.

With that, I appreciate again your efforts here on the floor tonight, and applaud your work.


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