- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

The chief executives of the District, Maryland and Virginia said yesterday they will pursue federal funding to help prepare the Washington area for homeland security emergencies.

“It is not an exaggeration or hyperbole to say that in this entire world there probably is not a more important place or not a more important region where we would be focused on homeland security and counterterrorism than right here in the National Capital Region,” said D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who met with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Maryland Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley at a regional summit in Southeast yesterday.

The National Capital Region, created and defined by Congress, includes the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and Alexandria in Virginia.

“It is critically important that we cooperate across borders and pursue our common goals,” said Mr. O’Malley, who takes office next week. “None of them more urgent, or more important than making this whole region … safer and more secure.”

The collaborative effort will work toward improving, among other things, communications among jurisdictions, public preparedness, critical infrastructure protection planning, intelligence sharing and the ability to deal with chemical, biological, nuclear and explosive attacks.

Mr. Fenty said protecting the Metro transit system, which branches out into all three jurisdictions, is a “huge priority.”

“If we get the adequate level of resources we will again be a world leader in making sure we are protecting our residents,” Mr. Fenty said.

The three Democrats said they will discuss their financial wish list as early as next month with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who announced last week that the District, New York and four other “highest-risk” metropolitan areas will compete for $411 million to subsidize their efforts to guard against terrorist attacks.

“It is just up to us to make our best case in meeting with Secretary Chertoff and DHS in the grant proposal we put together and the work we do with our combined congressional delegations,” Mr. Kaine said.

Homeland security issues have taken on a greater importance locally since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Mr. Kaine said he is optimistic that DHS this year will give the NCR extra financial considerations now that it has been branded as a “highest risk” area.

“It’s been hard to plan with numbers that go up and go down,” Mr. Kaine said.

Last year, the D.C. area lost out on $31 million in homeland security money after Congress cut DHS grant money by $700 million.

The three executives, whom Mr. Kaine dubbed the “three amigos,” said their backgrounds as city council members and big city mayors — Mr. Kaine in Richmond and Mr. O’Malley in Baltimore — is more important to homeland security than belonging to the same political party because they have an understanding of what local responders go through during catastrophic events.

“So much of the response is initially generated from local governments, and that will continue to be the case,” Mr. Kaine said.

This was the first such meeting for Mr. Fenty and Mr. O’Malley, who were elected to their current office last fall, and the seventh such meeting since 2003 when the three jurisdictions first started discussing mutual interests such as air quality, transportation, the Chesapeake Bay and tourism.

Yesterday’s summit was held at the Unified Communications Center, which opened in Southeast last fall.

The three leaders said they were optimistic about their working relationship going forward.

“We are all one community and we need to act that way,” Mr. Kaine said.

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