If you missed the webcast, Secretary Napolitano testified this morning and into the early afternoon before the House Homeland Security Committee.
In a brief summation of her prepared remarks the Secretary highlighted three priorities for, as she said, “kicking the tires” at the Department of Homeland Security:
1. Immigration enforcement,
2. FEMA working with others, and
3. Sharing intelligence and analysis.
The committee’s follow-on questions did not give much attention to immigration policy, probably because this is mostly in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. But border security – and especially escalating violence in Mexico – was the focus of many members comments and questions. In response the Secretary noted the Mexican government is undertaking serious and much needed action against narco-terrorists. DHS is attempting to assist by reducing the southward flow of weapons and money. But the Secretary cautioned against militarizing the border, while promising a vigorous response if local authorities perceive the need for help with troubles boiling over the border.
(Shortly after the House hearing concluded Attorney-General Holder announced the arrest of over 750 individuals associated with Mexican drug cartels. For more see an AP report and The Washington Times. )
When Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) asked whither-goest-FEMA, the Secretary noted, “I have not yet had a conversation with the President,” and was clearly keeping all options on the table. Still neither the Secretary nor the Committee seemed enthusiastic about FEMA being decoupled from DHS. Several members of both parties expressed opposition to such a move.
On intelligence gathering and analysis the Secretary gave particular emphasis to the role of non-federal assets. She mentioned that state and local authorities have “more eyes and ears than the federal government will ever have.” In response to several questions she went out of her way to emphasize a leading role for state and local public safety in the national intelligence enterprise.
In response to a question regarding Mexican drugwar violence the Secretary mentioned, the “best intel is often available from the local sheriff.” Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) commended the Secretary for her commitment to “bottom-up intelligence.”
This was the Secretary’s inaugural appearance before the Committee. Some additional thoughts later tonight or early tomorrow.