Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) highlighted the dangerous impact of the proposed cuts to federal counter-terrorism resources in the Administration’s budget proposal. Standing with New Jersey first responders, Gottheimer railed on how proposed cuts to homeland security programs — like the Urban Area Security Initiative Allocations Program (UASI) — would hurt the safety of our communities and local families in the face of a growing global terror and lone wolf terror.
Gottheimer was joined by the Chief of Hackensack Fire Department Thomas Freeman and Hackensack Mayor John LaBrosse.
“Here we are, in the shadow of Ground Zero, in an area that lost scores of men and women to the hands of terrorists, facing a budget that would gut a key weapon against terror. I won’t stand for it,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Our war on terror must be fought on multiple fronts, and in Congress, I am committed to doing whatever I can to stop terror in its tracks. I won’t stand idly by when cuts are made on the backs of Jersey first responders and families facing threats on our homefront.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s UASI program assists high-threat, high-density urban areas, the areas which are most vulnerable, to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and other disasters. By prioritizing high-risk areas, this program is all the more critical to New Jersey, which has seen increased threats in recent years.
The Administration’s budget request would cut the UASI Program funding by 26% or $156.2 million.
Video of Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks can be found online HERE and a photo of the event is below.
Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Thank you to Fire Chief Thomas Freeman for your nine years serving as Fire Chief here and for your thirty-four years at Hackensack Fire.
Not everyone knows this, but the Freemans have been fighting fires here since 1934 – almost since Hackensack became a career department more than back in 1915 – more than a hundred years ago. The Chief is a third-generation firefighter. Thank you and your family – and all of the firefighters at Hackensack Fire for your praiseworthy service.
Today, we’re here to highlight the potentially dangerous and devastating impact the Administration’s proposed homeland security cuts would have on our country and communities, including the UASI program, proudly represented here in Hackensack.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Area Security Initiative Allocations Program – more commonly known as UASI – assists high-threat, high-density urban areas, the areas which are most vulnerable, including right here in Northern New Jersey, to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and other disasters.
The Administration’s budget request would cut UASI Program funding by 26%, more than a quarter, reducing the ability of some of the most densely populated areas to defend themselves against terrorism. A major paper described these resources as “distributed to major U.S. cities to help them pay for counterterrorism work.”
Yet today, here we are, in the shadow of Ground Zero, in an area that lost scores of men and women to the hands of terrorists, facing a budget that would gut a key weapon against terror.
Here we are in 2017, with ISIS-inspired, homegrown and Lone Wolf terrorists lurking in our communities, and New Jersey is facing a $5 million dollar slash to this key counterterrorism program.
Here we are in the one of the highest tax-paying Districts in the country, where we are paying too much in taxes, and yet some are trying to hollow out our weapons against terror and crisis, putting even more burden on our local and property taxes.
As you heard the Hackensack Fire Department Chief Freeman say, it’s already difficult for them to maintain this essential program, and they simply can’t afford to stay in it and adequately train their first responders without the federal support.
So let me get this straight, in a time of global terror and lone wolf terror, we are deciding to skimp on a weapon in our arsenal?
Gutting this program means that our first responders here risk further endangering themselves when responding to a crisis situation – and not having all of the tools to defend our homeland in a crisis or a terrorist attack.
Our first responders and their families deserve nothing less than the best. Because, there’s no excuse, we must always stand by those who stand by us. We must always get the backs of those who protect our communities, who make us safer, who make our neighborhoods, like those here in Hackensack, the places we want to raise our families and grow our businesses.
Here in Hackensack, the UASI team is prepared to respond to any facet of an urban search and rescue scenario.
God forbid there is a terrorist incident in the region, Hackensack Fire Department and eleven other UASI trucks and teams will be prepared to go in and rescue the victims. In a situation like that – with victims stuck beneath rubble, concrete, steel, layers of building and God-knows-what – every minute matters.
These are not made up threats. In January, I stood with Officer Padilla, the heroic officer from Linden, NJ who stopped the Lone Wolf terrorist Ahmad Khan Rahami, after he set off multiple bombs in Chelsea, just a few miles from here.
Our first responders have thwarted dozens of other potential attacks. Thank God, they never make it to the newspaper because that’s how good our law enforcement and firefighters are – stopping them before they happen.
Already, this team here in Hackensack has been there for us and our community.
Let me tell you a little bit about this department, the work that they’ve done, and the importance of their service to our community.
In 2010, you may remember a three-story garage collapsed here in Hackensack. The roof had been leaking water into the structure corroding the steel to the point where one morning, the garage came down on top of the cars parked inside.
This UASI truck and five identical trucks from around the region were on the scene, securing and stabilizing the chaos created by a three layers of asphalt, steel, concrete, and vehicles stacked on top of one another. No one died.
It’s incredible and you can imagine how valuable these tools would be in any attack or disaster.
You all also know about the Hoboken Train Derailment. Hackensack Fire Department was the first UASI truck on scene that day.
Tragically, one life was lost in that incident, but thanks to our heroic first responders, the area was quickly secured and the other victims were able to be taken care of.
A wise man once said “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
Here’s the bottom line: We don’t know when the next emergency or terrorist attack will be. We can’t know the future, and we do hope for the best. But we have to be prepared for the worst. We need our first responders to be fully equipped for whatever crisis our community faces.
As a member of the bipartisan Fire Fighters Caucus and the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus, I’m committed to fighting this fight and making sure that our first responders have the tools and resources they need.
One of my first actions this year – it was my first event in the District after I was sworn in — was to join our good friend, the Chairman of the Fire Fighters Caucus and a true leader, Congressman Pascrell, in urging communities to apply for funding for first responders through the SAFER Grant program.
We need to bring those federal dollars home to protect our communities, instead of sending our hard-earned dollars to other states.
We are one of the top taxpaying Districts in the entire country, yet we are toward the bottom of what we get back – just 33 cents for every federal tax dollar we’ve been sending to Washington.
That’s less than half the New Jersey state average. Places like West Virginia get $4.23 cents for every taxpayer dollar they send to Washington. I call those states “moocher states.”
It’s a raw deal for us and it means that our local towns and property taxes have to make up the difference.
In fact, did you know that in 2007, a study found that Wyoming was receiving more counter-terrorism support per capita than New Jersey? That’s right, Wyoming. Home of tumbleweeds and wide open plains.
In fact, Wyoming was receiving seven times more anti-terror dollars per capita than New York and California. That’s outrageous.
The UASI program was created to make sure that federal anti-terrorism resources are actually sent to places that face risks of major terrorism events–like here in New Jersey and New York.
After 9/11, this department, Fire Chief Freeman included, sent a busload to assist at Ground Zero. Hackensack helped to put the pieces back together after that horrifying day.
Now, our communities need continued training and support to confront and decimate those who continue to threaten our communities and country.
I won’t stand idly by when people of any party threaten our families and children and weaken our homefront.
This budget does exactly that.
I’ve made it clear that America must take every step to be vigilant and prepared. It’s why I believe we must invest in our armed forces and take care of our veterans when they return.
In fact, the first piece of legislation I passed in Congress will help post-9/11 vets seeking employment while improving care for all of our veterans at the VA.
Our war on terror is a war fought on multiple fronts, and in Congress, I am committed to doing whatever I can to stop terror in its tracks.
I am proud to serve on the Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee, where we are working to disrupt the funding mechanisms of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, ISIS, and Al Qaeda.
And I recently introduced a bipartisan bill that would toughen sanctions against foreign governments who do business with terrorist groups like Hamas.
But the threats we face aren’t just coming from overseas. They are here. Homegrown and Lone wolf terrorists don’t need to go overseas to get their training; they literally can sit in their living room and watch YouTube videos.
Which is why it is even more important that we make sure our law enforcement and first responders have all the tools they need to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and other crises–tools like the UASI program that has provided needed training and equipment to our heroes right here in Hackensack.
To close, I’d like to reiterate to the first responders who are here today how deeply grateful I am for your service and sacrifice. Your work to keep our communities safe helps make our region and nation great.
I will always have your backs the way you have the backs of the towns you serve. We live in the greatest country in the world, and it’s in no small part thank to the work that you do every day.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.