Securing the Cities program is about securing our nation

While the attack on the World Trade Center occurred in New York City, it was an attack against America, and all Americans saw it as such. No non-New Yorker said, “I feel terrible that New York was attacked.”  Instead, Americans, regardless of residence, were outraged because their nation was attacked.

Even after eight years, New York City remains al Qaeda’s top target in America. As evidence, consider that just a few weeks ago, following an investigation by the FBI and NYPD, law enforcement officials arrested Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born American resident who admitted to traveling to Pakistan to receive training at a terrorist training camp. Upon his return to the United States, he allegedly targeted New York City to conduct a terrorist attack with homemade explosives. A federal grand jury has indicted Zazi on charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.    

The Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction declared that America faces a serious threat of nuclear terrorism.  Likewise, intelligence indicates that al Qaeda hopes to obtain a dirty bomb for use against Americans.

This is why the Securing the Cities Initiative is so important. Securing the Cities is a unified effort among state and local law enforcement in New York,

New Jersey, and Connecticut to defend against the threat of a radiological or nuclear device. Through a ring of detectors on highways, bridges, tunnels and on mobile units around the city, the NYPD works to stop a device from reaching al Qaeda’s target of New York City.

Just as we all viewed the 2001 attack on New York City as an attack on America, protecting New York City is protecting America.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have not yet gotten that message. While the Bush administration had for the previous three years funded the crucial Securing the Cities program, the Obama administration earlier this year proposed to eliminate funding for it in fiscal 2010. In June, a strong bipartisan majority of House members voted in support of an amendment I offered along with Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) to restore the necessary $40 million in funding for the program.

As the fiscal 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations legislation worked its way through Congress, the six U.S. senators and 36 other legislators from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut urged House and Senate appropriators to fully fund Securing the Cities.

Unfortunately, Congress earlier this month missed an opportunity to protect America when it slashed in half the necessary funding for Securing the Cities.

Some House Democrats even stated their belief that New York City should alone fund this critical homeland security program, with no dedicated federal assistance for it.

Those opposed to supporting Securing the Cities still fail to understand why protecting New York City is, in fact, protecting America.

They fail to acknowledge the fact that a nuclear or radiological device used to attack New York would be felt nationwide. They fail to recognize that the detonation of a dirty bomb on Wall Street, our financial nerve center, would have devastating consequences to the economy of the entire nation — from the borough of Manhattan to Manhattan Beach in Southern California. 

Likewise, they fail to comprehend the reality that the use of such a device would shut down a huge area for years to come.  Imagine the crippling effect on national and international commerce if the busiest port on the East Coast were too contaminated to operate.

Additionally, opponents of fully funding the Securing the Cities Initiative ignore the important fact that when fully operational in New York City, the program could be replicated in Washington, D.C., and other high-risk cities all across America.

Securing the Cities, which protects the No. 1 terrorist target in America, is good for all of America and is a crucial component of our homeland security strategy. Because so much is at stake, it is imperative that Congress and the administration understand that a permanent and fully funded Securing the Cities program is a matter of life and death.

King is ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.