Washington, DC – The leadership of the 110th Congress later this month plans to review the status of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations made to the Bush administration and Congress almost three years ago. The new Congress also intends to examine the current state of our national and homeland security. Such a focus is vital and needed—America is not as safe as it should be.
The United States has yet to adapt to the new post-9/11 security environment, aggressively mobilize its defenses at home, and close known vulnerabilities before the next attack occurs. While Congress addressed many 9/11 Commission recommendations through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, more needs to be done.
The problem: actions now required to measurably improve homeland security are not cost free. The ability of the new congressional leadership to invest in new initiatives or accelerate existing programs is constrained by an uncertain budget environment. These constraints include: a continuing resolution to fund the government in the current fiscal year that is below its stated requirements; an existing $248 billion budget deficit bequeathed by the 109th Congress; expected pay-as-you-go budget rules to be enacted by the new 110th Congress; and extremely costly ongoing military operations overseas, particularly in Iraq.
To address problems gaps, the Center for American Progress has drawn up 14 specific steps that Congress and the Bush administration can take in 2007 to follow up on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations and measurably improve the country’s emergency response capability, private sector prepared-ness, transportation system and critical infrastructure protection, border security, domestic intelligence, and non-proliferation efforts. These steps address:
• Emergency Preparedness and Response. The federal government needs to significantly increase federal homeland security grants in order to support the country’s security and preparedness requirements as well as provide more first-operability.
• Critical Infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security needs to restrict the National Asset Database to those facilities that are actually critical. Congress must strengthen recently enacted chemical security authorities to eliminate most chemical facility exemptions to increased security standards and include transportation of hazardous materials in security planning.
• Private Sector Preparedness. Congress and the Bush administration need to create market-based incentives to encourage the private sector to more aggressively address security vulnerabilities and adopt mitigation strategies, including a long-term terrorism risk insurance program and a more detailed publicly-traded company reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission and shareholders on terrorism risk.
• Transportation Security. Given the ongoing threat to aviation, the Transportation Security Administration needs more resources to expand physical inspection of air cargo and validate security steps taken at major domestic airports and within air cargo supply chains. Air cargo should be incorporated into major domestic airport planning for in-line passenger luggage explosive detection screening.
• Border Security. Congress needs to continue to support more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along borders and at ports of entry, equipped with better technology, real-time information, and organizational support. Congress should strengthen its oversight of the Customs and Border Protection’s automated tracking system. Congress should also modify the so-called Basic Pilot program to allow real-time and secure verification of social security numbers.
• Domestic Intelligence. Congress should authorize the addition of a Deputy Director of National Intelligence to oversee the overlapping federal domestic intelligence responsibilities and fully implement the national information-sharing environment. The Bush administration should establish a so-called COPS II program to improve local intelligence capabilities and links among federal, state, and local governments.
• Non-Proliferation. DHS should expand current efforts to deploy a real-time urban nuclear, chemical, and biological detection system in all major metropolitan areas. This system should be backed by a stronger oversight process, including improved forensic technology to identify the source of dangerous materials that might be employed by a rogue element against the United States.
The only way Congress can make such investments in a new and balanced national security strategy is by reducing the cost of the Iraq war and shifting a portion of the $8 billion currently committed to operations in Iraq each month to other urgent national security requirements. Iraq is consuming an inordinate share of the national security requirements. Iraq is consuming an inordinate share of the national security budget of the United States. This cannot continue.
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