WASHINGTON – Homeland security planning for the national capital region should extend to all of Maryland, and not just areas around Washington, state officials told the House Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
“The `national capital region’ is a Cold War thought process,” said Maj. Gen. Bruce Tuxill, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard. “When one takes a look at commuting patterns it (the region at risk) far extends” beyond the immediate suburbs.
The committee needs to re-examine “exactly what constitutes the region we want to plan for,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington. “Obviously, the Washington region is not an island.”
Tuxill said the boundaries of the capital region used to extend only as far as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and close-in Northern Virginia counties and cities. But that idea is flawed today, he said, because so many people from all parts of the state commute into Washington, D.C.
“We need to think a little more globally,” Tuxill said. “Maryland — and it’s all of Maryland — helps D.C. and Virginia and vice versa.”
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, agreed.
“We need to focus on the hometowns,” said Ruppersberger, a member of the committee. “Not just on D.C., but the entire region.”
Maryland speakers also took the opportunity of the hearing to plead for money, saying first responders across the state need more resources to do their jobs in a time of heightened threat levels.
“Have we ever had enough money? No. Will we ever have enough money? Probably not,” said Tuxill.
Funds are needed to make sure that the counties are working together and building systems that can communicate with each other, Tuxill said. While systems are now working, he said, they could be made better.
Federal funds are particularly important in the current atmosphere of state deficits, said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore. Maryland lawmakers faced a potential $2 billion shortfall this year.
States are “going though some very difficult times,” said Cummings. “It’s up to us (the federal government) to help.”
Van Hollen said local officials have told him, “that they’re not getting the funds at the local level. . . . My sense is the states are not getting enough.”
He said he was “disappointed” that the House and Senate did not include more money for first responders like police, fire and medical personnel when they passed slightly different versions of an $80 billion supplemental budget last week. Both chambers beat back Democratic attempts to add money to the $2 billion the president requested in the supplemental.
Ruppersberger agreed with the need for more funds.
“It’s extremely important that we refocus some of our money,” he said. “A lot of that should go to the state and local governments” for first responders.
“We haven’t done the job here to give (states) the resources that are needed,” Ruppersberger said.