A bill increasing scrutiny of civilians who work at military bases is expected to be introduced Wednesday in Congress, partly in response to the arrest this week of six suspects in a terror plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
The measure - proposed by U.S. Rep. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and cosponsored by fellow South Jersey U.S. Reps. Robert Andrews, Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith - would require exhaustive federal background checks of civilian workers.
It would also help standardize part of the security measures that protect U.S. military bases across the country.
Saxton said military bases had a "potpourri of security systems" before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and have been upgrading security.
He said he had proposed legislation in 2003 to focus more on civilian workers on base but was asked by the Department of Defense to hold off while changes were being made.
Yesterday, the four congressmen had waited long enough and planned to fine-tune the bill for introduction as part of the Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.
The new civilian-worker checks would be conducted by the Defense Department and include a search of the worker's criminal, employment, educational, credit and military records. The Department of Homeland Security would determine whether the civilian is a U.S. citizen.
One of the six suspects arrested in the terror plot was on a list of pizza deliverers approved by Fort Dix to come on the post. Serdar Tatar used his position to scout the base for a possible attack, federal authorities said.
But he would have been flagged under the new bill, now mandating federal checks of civilian workers, said Andrews and LoBiondo.
Andrews said the checks would have shown the suspect to be under surveillance and "barred him from getting access. . . . We need to legislate an answer to the [security] problem."