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September 11th Reminds Us that Our Security Mission is Never Complete


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On September 11, 2001, our nation was horrifically attacked by terrorists. An otherwise seemingly peaceful fall morning, four commercial airliners were used as weapons against us at the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA. As we all remember and must never forget, the lives of more than 3,000 Americans were lost during those long hours. In response, the nation has taken measurable steps to improve our security, coordination, detection and prevention from additional attacks. More diligence and more progress, however, are still needed.

For the past nine years, the nation rightly focused on strengthening our security procedures by making necessary investments in a myriad of areas. From day one, South Jersey has played a key role in these efforts, particularly in the areas of aviation and port security research and development and the physical patrolling of the New York City to Washington, D.C. corridor. In fact, our region's role has only increased in recent years. Institutions such as the 177th Air National Guard Fighter Wing, the TSA Aviation Security Lab, FAA Technical Center and Federal Air Marshal Training Center are called upon constantly to ensure the nation's security. And each of these facilities -- and the dedicated men and women who work there -- has risen to the challenge.

However, that progress is now being threatened by misguided budgetary decisions. I strongly believe that recent budget cuts proposed by the Obama Administration to critical homeland security programs are absolutely unacceptable, particularly to the Coast Guard. As South Jersey residents know, the Coast Guard has a substantial presence in South Jersey and serves to patrol and protect the nation's ports and maritime transportation system. The President's 2011 budget proposal seeks to eliminate five of the Coast Guard's Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), including one stationed at the Port of New York/New Jersey.

With only 13 MSSTs nationwide, this reduction of force would significantly impact the number of suspect vessels boarded, anti-terrorism activities conducted, critical infrastructure patrolled and so forth. As Ranking Member of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I am fighting these proposed cuts so that the progress we've made in port security is not jeopardized. In all our policies and procedures of national security, our shared goal must be to make our country more secure and more safe, not the opposite, through sustained federal support.

Likewise, our homeland defense would be incomplete without the tireless and constant efforts of our first responders. These brave men and women were unquestionably the heroes of that horrific day, and have always been vital to the safety of our communities. With strong bipartisan support, federal initiatives such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and the Bulletproof Vests Partnership Program provide essential resources to local first responders and, despite legitimate spending and deficit concerns, must be continued.

It has been nine years since September 11th and many things have changed while some - despite relentless attempts by our intelligence, military, and law enforcement communities - have not. Threats from Al Qaeda and other rogue terrorists continue, therefore our vigilance and commitment to secure our homeland must be as diligent. While there are many critical issues for our nation to focus and work on -- particularly restoring economic growth and creating jobs - we must not become complacent in our efforts to protect America, nor can we stand down our existing defenses. And we must ensure that our servicemen and women, our critical homeland security installations, and our first responders have the necessary resources and our unwavering support for their mission to keep us safe is never complete.

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