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A Smarter Formula for a Safer New Jersey

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A Smarter Formula for a Safer New Jersey
Editorial by Reps. Mike Ferguson (NJ-7), Chris Smith (NJ-4) & Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, enacting a plan that represents the core of the 9/11 Commission s recommendations.

No where are the recommendations of this commission more important than here in the greater New Jersey/New York region. The horrific events of September 11, 2001 have not receded into our memories. The memories are fresh and the pain is still raw.

The 9-11 Recommendations Implementation Act puts forward a plan that strengthens our intelligence systems and reforms the homeland security grant program to meet the real security challenges and threats New Jersey and other high-threat areas continue to face.

Since 9-11, we have been working with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Tom Ridge and the Chairman of House Select Committee on Homeland Security Congressman Chris Cox (CA-48) to address the unique terrorist threats and security burdens we face here in New Jersey.

We argued that the federal state-by-state homeland security funding formula must be changed so that funding and resources can be sent to where they are needed most. We said the formula must be changed and based strictly on threat assessment, critical infrastructure and population density so that states like New Jersey and other high-threat areas receive the funding they deserve and need to protect their communities.

In July, the 9/11 Commission rightly agreed with our assessment and recommended that the national homeland security grant formula be reformed to address threat assessment, critical infrastructure and population density. As a result, this change was included in the 9-11 Recommendations Implementation Act passed by the House this week.

Currently, each state automatically receives an equal share of roughly 40% of all federal homeland security funding available in a given fiscal year. The remaining 60% is distributed strictly on a population based formula, with no consideration for vulnerability or population density. This means that rural states like Wyoming and North Dakota receive a disproportionately large portion of homeland funding, while New Jersey, despite its heightened security concerns, receives less than its fair share.

Changing the state-by-state homeland security funding program is not intended to make other states vulnerable, but rather to recognize the heightened risk of terrorist attacks that we face here in New Jersey and throughout the greater New York region.

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.

The security of New Jersey and New York are inextricably intertwined. Each year, 212 million vehicles traverse our tunnels, bridges and ferries, each of which must be protected by both New Jersey and New York law enforcement and homeland security officials.

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 mutually aid and rely on each other in ways large and small to protect the entire metropolitan region.

In August, based on recent and credible intelligence, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pin-pointed the Prudential Financial headquarters in Newark as a potential target of terrorists, and ultimately increased the threat level for northern New Jersey. This threat and decision to increase the alert level, along with each of the reasoned mentioned above, only reaffirms why the national homeland security grant formula has to be changed and based strictly on threat assessment, critical infrastructure and population density.

To prevent another 9/11, we have taken many steps in Congress to strengthen our homeland security and better protect our families.

We created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, increased funding for our first responders, lowered the barriers between law enforcement and intelligence, and now the FBI and the CIA do a better job of sharing intelligence and working together to keep America strong, safe and free.

Most importantly, two years ago, we worked with DHS to ensure New Jersey was eligible for special homeland security funding provided to high threat high density urban areas that are considered at greatest risk to terrorism. The Department agreed with our assessment that the security needs born by our neighbor New York City are also shared by New Jersey. As a result, New Jersey s high-threat high density areas are now receiving nearly $100 million for preparedness and greater security measures.

While we have made a lot of progress, there is still much more to do.

As the 9/11 Commission Chairman, former governor Tom Kean said, We are safer today, but we are not safe.

Enacting the 9-11 Recommendations Implementation Act shouldn t stop Congress from enacting further reforms and taking additional steps to protect America. The 9/11 Commission s recommendations should not be the end of our efforts to strengthen America but only the beginning.

The authors of this editorial represent three Congressional Districts is northern and central New Jersey.

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