Payne, Jr. Hosts Homeland Security Field Hearing in Jersey City

Jun 21, 2016 Issues: Local Issues, National Security
Payne, Jr. Hosts Homeland Security Field Hearing in Jersey City

Jersey City, N.J. – In the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Belgium that claimed 20 lives, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, today hosted a field hearing titled “Protecting our Passengers: Perspectives on Securing Surface Transportation in New Jersey and New York.” The field hearing brought together transportation officials, law enforcement officers, emergency management officials, emergency medical coordinators, and others to better understand how transit operators and first responders prevent, prepare for, and respond to incidents on mass transit.

“The New Jersey-New York metropolitan area, with its numerous transportation assets, is among the most high-risk urban areas in the country,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “Our transit operators and first responders are uniquely qualified to share their perspectives on what the federal government does well to keep our systems secure and what it can do better. The insights and perspectives gained today are incredibly valuable not only to New Jersey, but to cities across the nation in their efforts to ensure the safety of their surface transportation systems.”

“The threat environment is at a post-9/11 peak, and the New York metropolitan region remains a top target,” said Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), Chairman of the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee. “Today’s hearing examined how to improve surface transportation security. The terror threat evolves continuously, and we have to stay ahead to keep our fellow residents safe.”

“Whether they rely on NJTransit, Amtrak, SEPTA, or our roads and highways, constituents in my district need reliable and safe surface transportation, and they want to know that security for each of these modes is strong and effective,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). “Today’s hearing offered insight on important mechanisms, like the planning and coordination between emergency responders on our rail assets, and the funding provided for every part of our state.  We need to remain vigilant, and we must ensure that all modes of surface transportation have the resources they need to offer users peace of mind.”

(High resolution images are available for download here)

The field hearing was an official hearing of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. It was requested by Subcommittee Ranking Member Payne, Jr. in light of the Brussels attack on March 22, 2016 that killed more than 20 rail passengers and injured more than 100. 

Despite steps taken by Congress to prevent those types of attacks on surface transportation systems, significant security gaps still remain. Nearly ten years ago, Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act), requiring the Transportation Security Administration to assign rail carriers to high-risk tiers and establish regulations for frontline employee training. TSA is almost a decade behind in issuing these regulations. At the hearing, the Subcommittee examined actions transit operators have voluntarily undertaken to prevent a Brussels-style attack in the United States in the absence of these overdue regulations from TSA.

During the field hearing, the Subcommittee also explored how the Homeland Security Grant Program and the Transit Security Grant Program facilitate improved planning and coordination among transit operators and emergency responders.

“The remarkable progress this region has made is due, in large part, to significant Federal homeland security grant funding,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “Today, we had the opportunity to learn how grant investments have made us safer, and what more the Federal government needs to do.”

Panelists at the hearing included:

  • Sonya Proctor, Director, Surface Division, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, Transportation Security Administration
  • Thomas Belfiore, Chief Security Officer, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Martin Conway, Deputy Chief of Police, Amtrak
  • Christopher Trucillo, Chief of Police, NJ TRANSIT Police Department
  • Raymond Diaz, Director of Security, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Mike Mollohan, Trustee, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association
  • Rick Sposa, Operations Coordinator, Emergency Medical Services, Jersey City Medical Center
  • Lt. Vincent Glenn, Emergency Service Unit/Bomb Squad Commander, Jersey City Police Department
  • Captain Richard Gorman, Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Task Force member, Jersey City Fire Department
  • Sergeant W. Greg Kierce, Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director