New Jersey Congressmen Fight for Increase in Homeland Security Funding
TRENTON - Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-08) and Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-01) today called on President Bush and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to increase New Jersey's share of federal resources for Homeland Security. In a press conference on the steps of the State House, the Congressman joined with New Jersey Acting Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Director of the New Jersey Office of Counter Terrorism Sidney Caspersen, to make the point that despite New Jersey's significant role in the fight against terror the state does not receive its adequate share of federal funding. The group cited the fact that New Jersey has only received $14.22 million through the federal funding formula distributed by the Office of Domestic Preparedness. They urged the President to make funding for the Nation's homeland security a budget priority.
The Congressmen, both members of the newly created House of Representatives Select Committee on Homeland Security, have jointly written to Secretary Ridge urging him to provide more funding for New Jersey's Homeland Defense. Federal Homeland Security funds are distributed to the states through a formula created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The formula requires all states and territories receive a minimum of .75 percent of the total funds available, which is mandated by the Patriot Act of 2001. While this may not seem significant on first glance, this ultimately amounts to over 40 percent of the entire money allocated. This one size fits all approach coupled with the fact that the formula includes no risk assessment, caused the Congressman to call the formula fatally flawed for high risk states like New Jersey.
"The distribution of these funds is dictated by a formula that does not fully serve the demands of our nation's high threat areas and is not truly realistic to our national security needs," stated Rep. Pascrell. "For future funding, additional weight must be given to areas with greater infrastructure, major mass transit systems and dense populations. In short, greater weight needs to go to New Jersey."
On April 16, 2003, President Bush signed into law a nearly $80 billion emergency bill, mostly to finance the war in Iraq and the global war on terrorism. Despite the best efforts of Reps. Andrews and Pascrell, this new law includes only $4 billion in counterterrorism funds. The Congressmen, along with many of their colleagues, argued that local entities needed far more help to cover rising costs for first responders such as police and firefighters and attempted to raise the level of funding to $10 billion.
"I am pleased that we were able to agree in the Congress to provide emergency spending for our troops fighting terror abroad, but it is outrageous that we cannot do the same for the individuals fighting terror here at home," said Rep. Rob Andrews. "The President is wrong to think that the Nation can afford a $550 billion dollar tax cut while we still have so many unfunded priorities in regard to homeland security. I would urge him to abandon this irresponsible tax plan and spend the money to protect the country."
While New York City has twice been the victim of horrific terrorist attacks, the information drawn from the investigative records of both the '93 World Trade Center bombing and the unconventional assaults of 9/11, demonstrates that New Jersey provided a planning and logistical base for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In both '93 and 9/11, New Jersey was the embarkation point for terrorists as they initiated their missions. In order to detect and prevent acts of terrorism, alleviating the need to respond and recover from terrorist-contrived tragedies, New Jersey must be given appropriate consideration for homeland security funding.
"We commend the efforts of our entire Congressional Delegation, both Representatives and Senators, to secure New Jersey's fair share of federal funding for homeland security," said Acting Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. "We are all in accord that, because of its strategic location and the presence of nationally significant critical infrastructure, New Jersey faces heightened risk of potential terrorist attack. When it comes to homeland security funding, the dollars must follow the dangers. Both New Jersey and New York must be viewed, for example, as a single metropolis."
Despite the lack of federal funding, the effort to protect the homeland against the threat of terror continues. Governor McGreevey and the State legislature have invested State funds into homeland security, for the protection of assets that are critical to national security in terms of public safety, as well as the economy. However, this is causing a significant drain on an already over-burdened treasury.