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STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SENATOR TED STEVENS
I welcome Secretary Chertoff and thank him for appearing before the Committee today to discuss his recently announced plan to streamline the operations, policies, and structures within the Department of Homeland Security.
Congress responded quickly to the September 11 attacks by first creating the Transportation Security Administration, and soon after that, the Department of Homeland Security. At the time, it was imperative to the U.S. economy that the public trust in commercial aviation be restored, and that coordination between Federal bureaucracies, as well as with State and local governments, be achieved to defend against terrorism.
Being mindful of the speed by which the Department of Homeland Security was created, Congress authorized the Secretary in the Homeland Security Act to reassess the Department’s operations and structure, and make modifications where necessary. I commend Secretary Chertoff for taking advantage of this authority, and for his proactive efforts and dedication to making this Nation safer.
The purpose of today’s hearing is to understand in greater detail the processes by which Secretary Chertoff conducted his review, and the organizational modifications that he has proposed in his effort to make DHS operate more efficiently and effectively.
I have reviewed the Secretary’s plan and while I believe many of his proposals make sense, I think the Secretary’s review fails to highlight one critical component of an effective homeland security approach. That is, the enlistment of volunteers to defend the homeland. Hiring people to do every security job will bankrupt this country. I firmly believe that Americans have been awaiting instructions from their government since the attacks of September 11 so that they can play a role in defending this Nation. I can remember riding a train from Texas to Los Angeles when I was an Air Force Lieutenant and a local volunteer walked up and down the aisle of the train to check each passenger’s identification to ensure that we were supposed to be riding the train.
As DHS moves toward implementing the Secretary’s plan in October, I hope the Secretary further studies ways by which he can involve our citizenry.
Daniel K. InouyeSenator
Today, we will examine Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff’s comprehensive review of the Department’s organization and policy direction. Specifically, we hope to learn more about the role of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in this latest reorganization.
Chairman Stevens, Senator Rockefeller, and I, along with Senators Snowe, Dorgan, Lautenberg, Cantwell, and Pryor, introduced the Transportation Security Improvement Act of 2005, S. 1052, to better equip the TSA for its transportation security mission. I look forward to hearing the Secretary’s perspectives on our bill in light of his comprehensive review. We are anxious to improve our legislation and make certain that the Department has what it needs to keep our transportation infrastructure secure.
Transportation security is economic and national security, and the most prudent step we can take to improve it is to strengthen and empower the TSA.
While I was encouraged to learn that the TSA will continue to be the “lead agency” for transportation security, I remain concerned about the proposed realignment’s potential effects on port, rail, and transit security. The reorganization also appears to have altered the DHS’s areas of concentration, particularly regarding policy, intelligence, operations, and preparedness.
While I commend the Secretary for this substantive undertaking, I would not be doing my job if I did not raise for further discussion three principal areas of concern I have with his announcement:
The transfer of port security functions away from the TSA;
The Department’s poorly defined commitment to rail and transit security; and
The future of the TSA’s vetting and credentialing programs, such as the Registered Traveler program and hazmat background checks.
Given the recent terrorist bombing of London’s commuter rail and buses, the bombings in Madrid last year, as well as similar transit attacks in Moscow, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo, we need greater detail and attention to rail and transit security, not less.
However, just one day after the reorganization announcement, in an interview with the Associated Press, Secretary Chertoff suggested that rail and transit security would not be a top priority during his tenure. I hope that he will address those comments today, particularly since our legislation directs greater attention and more resources toward these transportation modes.
It is a gross miscalculation to de-emphasize rail and transit security. As we have witnessed repeatedly, transit systems are a primary target for international terrorists. Such attacks are highly visible, produce mass casualties, cause broad economic disruption, and generate widespread fear.
In fact, a recent Associated Press poll indicated that 57% of Americans now believe a transit-related attack in the U.S. is inevitable.
The same poll also demonstrated that Americans are not shying away from their daily routines. We must show similar resolve and work together to prove that an attack is far from certain. It is our job to do everything possible to ensure that while the threat risk will likely continue, the actual vulnerability will diminish.
S. 1052 redoubles our efforts to secure our rail lines, motor carriers, and ports, and provides the Department with the tools needed to accomplish the goals articulated in the Secretary’s review.
We look forward to working with the Secretary in the weeks and months ahead to ensure that our transportation systems are as safe and secure as possible.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Michael ChertoffSecretaryU.S. Department of Homeland Security