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Homeland Security Funding Change Would Make New Jersey Safer

Location: Washington, DC

September 30, 2004

Homeland Security Funding Formula Change Would Make New Jersey Safer

Washington, DC - Members of New Jersey s Congressional Delegation today met with the Chairman of the Select Committee on Homeland Security Christopher Cox (CA-48) to discuss changing the homeland security funding formula for allocating first responder and other security grants.

For well over a year, New Jersey s Congressional Delegation has, in a bipartisan manner, consistently argued that the Department of Homeland Security s first responder grant system is seriously flawed because it focused too heavily on state minimums and raw population counts, rather than critical infrastructure and risk, said Congressman Smith, who also noted that we re working to provide a fair and workable grant review system that focuses assistance where the terrorism threats are greatest.

We made great strides today in our meeting with Chairman Cox to ensure that homeland security funding will be allocated based on a real threat of terrorist attack, Ferguson said. That s the right policy, that s good for high-threat states like New Jersey and it should be the law of the land.

I appreciate that Chairman Cox took the time to meet with us this afternoon, said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), New Jersey s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. We reiterated to the Chairman that last month s decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to increase the threat level in northern New Jersey further underscores the unique security concerns our local communities face. The increased threat level reaffirms why the national homeland security grant formula must be based strictly on threat assessment, critical infrastructure and population density.

Chairman Cox was responsive to the Congressional Delegation s concerns and pledged to continue to work with them to change the state homeland security formula to one that allocates funding based on critical infrastructure, threat assessment and population density. Such a change would provide a windfall of homeland security grant funding for New Jersey.

In 2002, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge supported an effort led by Rep. Frelinghuysen to include language in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act that ensures, along with New York City, New Jersey would be eligible to receive security funds for discretionary grants for use in high density urban areas, in high threat areas.

Since Fiscal Year 2003, this Urban Area Security Initiative designation has brought an nearly $100 million to the state for high threat-high density areas, including Newark, Jersey City and the six contiguous counties of Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, and Union.

Last month, New Jersey s Congressional Delegation sent a letter to Secretary Ridge requesting he issue a rule change for allocating first responder and other homeland security grants to be based upon population density, threat assessment and critical infrastructure.

The text of the letter sent to Secretary Ridge today is as follows:

August 16, 2004

Honorable Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge
Department of Homeland Security
Naval Security Station
Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20393

Dear Secretary Ridge:

Last week s announcement regarding specific threats against potential targets in the Newark, New Jersey area significantly underscores the importance of your decision last year to include Newark and Jersey City, and the contiguous counties, in the discretionary Urban Area Security Initiative program (UASI).

As you know, the New Jersey Congressional Delegation and representatives from New Jersey s state homeland security and emergency management agencies met with Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson in 2003 to discuss the critical at-risk cities located in our state and what we saw as the inherent eligibility for added funding through the UASI. Your early action in agreement with our presentation, combined with the flexibility provided by language inserted into public law by Rep. Frelinghuysen, has been vital to helping us better prepare for and address our state's urgent and ongoing homeland security needs. Since fiscal year 2003, the UASI designation has brought an additional $55 million to the state for these high threat areas above the $175 million that NJ has received exclusively through other Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) programs.

We thank you for your response in this regard and for the added federal resources it has brought to our area. We are also grateful for the new guidance released by your department last week, in response to the most recent terror alert, which will allow Newark and Jersey City to use the UASI funds to pay overtime for police, fire and other first responder personnel.

Today we write to request the Department's ongoing help in addressing the added concerns we have in New Jersey, especially in light of the Department s decision to raise the Homeland Security Advisory Alert System level from yellow to orange in only limited areas of the country, including Northern New Jersey.

The elevation of the threat level in limited areas draws attention again to a flaw in the distribution formula for the preparedness grants provided through programs other than the UASI. As you know, Congress statutorily required (through Public Law 107-56) that each state receive a minimum .075% of the total funding in programs such as the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP), the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP); the Citizen Corps Grant Programs (CCP); and the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program (EMPG).

We know that the Administration has sought to change the state minimum formula to one which allocates funding based on population as well as critical infrastructure, risk assessment and vulnerability. And we know that your efforts, and our advocacy in the House for this important reform, have been blocked by other lawmakers in Congress.

For example, our efforts to increase access to funding based on risk and vulnerability have been blocked by rural special interests in both parties. Recently, Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY) offered an amendment to the FY05 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would have increased the funding for the UASI account by $450 million dramatically increasing New Jersey s share of federal homeland security funding. This amount would reflect the level requested by the President in his budget. We in New Jersey s congressional delegation voted unanimously in support of this amendment because we recognized the importance of the UASI s discretionary, risk-based funding program and the unique security needs faced by our high-threat urban areas. Unfortunately, this amendment failed because of opposition in other regions of the country. We regret this outcome but want to continue to work with you and others to secure the proper level of funding in each program as well as alternative funding formulas so that programs such as SHSGP, LETPP, CCP, and EMPG are able to give more consideration to a state s vulnerability and risk factors when awarding grants.

Accordingly, we urge the Department to institute a rule for allocating first responder and other DHS grants based on population concentrations, critical infrastructure, and other significant terrorism risk factors for the funds that exceed the .075% state minimum. By our calculations, the .075% state minimum amounts to approximately 38% of the monies in accounts other than USAI. While Congress continues to grapple with funding formulas and levels, we believe you can act administratively to ensure that more of the non-discretionary funds are distributed based on population density, threat assessment and critical infrastructure.

Since the .075% state minimum requirement must be fixed through legislation, an administrative rule would in the interim-refine, rather than eliminate, the state minimum formula approach. It would track and reflect the data that has led to elevated alert levels in specific localities.

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation. At least a dozen sites within our state have been placed on the FBI's "National Critical Infrastructure list". As we have pointed out in the past, the security of New York City and New Jersey is inextricably intertwined. Each year, 212 million vehicles traverse our states' tunnels, bridges and ferries, which must be protected by both New Jersey and New York. Of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's three airports, the busiest by far, is Newark International Airport. Nearly 60 percent of all containerized maritime cargo handled by all North Atlantic ports goes through the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the vast majority of the cargo flows through New Jersey's docks onto our rails, tunnels and roads.

Overall, 450,000 people commute from New Jersey to lower Manhattan each day. And our first responders (fire, EMT and police) have had a mutual aid pact since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. They mutually aid and rely on each other in ways large and small to protect the entire metropolitan region.

As evidenced by recent reports, New Jersey continues to face unique terrorism threats and burdens because of our critical infrastructure, assets, and population density. As such we believe the formulas need to be reformed. We would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to see how we can work together to bring greater fairness and equity to the program. We thank you for your attention and assistance to our state and the safety of our citizens in the past and stand ready to work with you on enhancing the federal support for our domestic preparedness programs.



Member s of New Jersey s Congressional Delegation

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