Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held the first in a series of hearings about the future of homeland security. Wednesday’s hearing focused on evolving and emerging threats.
I gleaned a few excerpts from the speakers prepared remarks. I encourage those with an interest in homeland security rhetoric, thought, analysis, fact, social construction, discourse, comity and history to download and read the full statements.
First, my favorite part of all the testimony, from Brian Jenkins.
The sentiments are not new; they appear in his Unconquerable Nation. But neither are they old.
Common Will and Common Purpose
Terror is just as much an enemy as the terrorists who try to create it. Our reactions to terrorism are part of any assessment. America has come through the dark shadow of 9/11, but as a nation, are we stronger?
Individual acts of courage inspire us, but Americans remain anxious rather than confident in the country’s ability to survive the threats we face. Fear-mongers and doomsayers still find a receptive audience.
Instead of our traditional self-reliance, Americans look too much to government to protect them, in part the reflection of rhetoric that, rather than involving us in a national effort, tells us that as individuals we can do nothing beyond remaining vigilant.
Americans have come to hold unrealistic expectations about security, believing that risk can be abolished. We are too ready to seek someone to blame when security fails.
Instead of the stoicism needed for a long fight, Americans remain vulnerable to overreaction. A terrorist attack of even modest scale could provoke paroxysms of panic.
Whatever one thinks about the wisdom, or the folly, of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sacrifices of war have been borne unequally. Our sense of community has eroded.
Terrorists did not create America’s anxieties. Terrorism acted as their condenser. Nor will America’s homeland be secured in the mountain passes of Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, or the sands of the Sahara. Our commonwealth, our common defense, will come only from the recovery our own sense of common will and common purpose.
Joseph I. Lieberman
This coming November will mark the tenth anniversary of the signing into law of the Homeland Security Act legislation created in this Committee in the aftermath of al Qaeda’s attack on 9-11. Given this coming milestone, it seems appropriate not only to reflect on the major homeland security developments of the last decade but also to look ahead to the next ten years, and examine whether we are adequately prepared to address them.
The preeminent threat to our homeland security today remains the threat of terrorism….
The cyber threat is the second most significant threat to the United States….
The violence in Mexico by drug trafficking organizations has reached the level where it is now a direct threat to our national security….
Transnational organized criminal groups are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are engaged in a wide variety of activities, from human smuggling to Medicare fraud….
…[While] our threats are becoming increasingly interrelated, we continue to address them in a fragmented way, with different agencies responsible for different threats.
Susan M. Collins
In an understatement, the [9/11] Commission’s report observed that, “[i]magination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies.” Yet, imagination is precisely what is needed to address emerging threats. We must persistently ask: Where are the future threats? What technology could be used? Do we have the intelligence that we need? Are we prepared to thwart novel plans of attack? What will our enemy look like in two, five, or even ten years?
Michael V. Hayden
Because of globalization, the international structure that was created by the Treaty of Westphalia more than five centuries ago is no longer dominant. …. most of the attributes of the age of industrialization made the state stronger and more relevant. Most of the effects of today’s globalization make the state weaker and less relevant…. But here we sit with institutions optimized and practiced for the earlier age: methodical, thorough, stable….
We all agreed in the 9-11 Commission Report that we needed a domestic intelligence service and it would be best to house it in the FBI. But look at the reaction even today when the bureau tries to collect information without a criminal predicate, in that area we called “spaces between cases.”
And heaven save us from the Associated Press if the New York City Police Department tries to do the same thing….
This committee knows more than most how many of our secrets (state and industrial) are being stolen by foreign governments; how much of our wealth is being pilfered by criminal gangs; and how much of our infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber enabled anarchists and malcontents….
I should add that cyber, terrorist and criminal threats today all merge in a witches’ brew of danger.
Brian Michael Jenkins
The United States confronts a more diverse terrorist threat in 2012 than it has in the past. Al Qaeda, still our principal concern, has exploited the turmoil created by the Arab uprisings to make tactical advances and open new fronts. In addition, several incidents in the past year suggest a resurgence of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. Mexico faces what some analysts have called a “criminal insurgency” by the country’s drug cartels, which could expose the United States to the kind of savagery seen in that country. The global economic crisis has spawned mass protests.
These are legitimate expressions of popular discontent, but they attract violence-prone anarchists and may generate their own violent fringe groups. Anti-federal-government sentiments, a continuing current in American history, have become more virulent, fueled in part by economic dislocation that transcends the current economic crisis, deep national divisions, and the rancorous partisanship that characterizes contemporary political debate.
Frank J. Cilluffo
… [At] the level of principle, we need to be as flexible and adaptive as our adversaries, who are nothing if not creative and ever-thinking. A static posture is an ineffective one. After all, each time we raise the security bar (often at great cost to the U.S. Treasury) our adversaries devote themselves determinedly to crafting a reasonably inexpensive and clever way around the latest security measure(s). Their ingenuity and inventions are often vivid, and include body and “booty” bombs. Now is not the time to ease off the gas pedal. Rather we should and must keep up the pressure and exploit this unique window of counterterrorism opportunity by maintaining, if not accelerating, the operational tempo. The threat would look and be markedly different otherwise….
To my mind, the cybersecurity community’s state of development is akin to that of the counterterrorism community as it stood shortly after 9/11….
Now is the time to act. For too long, we have been far too long on nouns, and far too short on verbs.
Stephen E. Flynn
In response to the attacks on 9/11, the Bush Administration mobilized U.S. national security capabilities to go after al Qaeda and those within the international community who supported them. To an overwhelming extent, the strategy was one of prevention by way of military force supported by stepped-up intelligence. … The hoped for outcome of engaging the threat in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world… was “so we do not have to face them here at home.”
This strategy has involved a considerable amount of national treasure…. That amount translates into a burn-rate of $350 million for each and every day for ten years.
By contrast, the cost of one-hour of these war operations—$15 million—has been the most that has been invested in the entire annual budget for the Citizens Corps Program which was initiated after 9/11 to engage citizens in the homeland security mission by volunteering to support emergency responders….
… [The] total amount of containers inspected overseas in 2011 was just 45,500. This represents 0.5% of the 9.5 million manifests that CBP … reviewed overseas in advance of loading. If the 45,500 number is divided by the 58 … ports and 365 days per year, the result is [security] inspectors are examining with their foreign counterparts on average, 2.15 containers per day per overseas port before they are loaded on carriers bound for the US–two containers each day.
This does not represent much of a deterrent.
…In addition to the ongoing risk associated with terrorism, there is an even more clear and present danger to the safety of Americans that should animate the homeland security mission: natural disasters. It turns out that 91 percent of Americans live in places at a moderate risk of earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, high wind damage….
[The] investment Washington makes in homeland security remains a fraction of the resources devoted to traditional national security. At times, this can have the perverse outcome of actually making civilian targets potentially more attractive to our adversaries. For instance, the U.S. Navy has invested more in protecting the single port of San Diego that is home to the Pacific Fleet, than the Department of Homeland Security has invested in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and Tacoma combined, upon which the bulk of the U.S. economy relies….
…Everyday civilians, supported by state and local officials, will need to be better informed and empowered to play a meaningful role. This role includes not only preventing acts of terrorism, but making investments that mitigate the risk of disruption to our communities and critical infrastructure. This will require a homeland security enterprise centered around three efforts: (1) setting appropriate expectations, (2) increasing transparency, and (3) building community and infrastructure resilience.