Press Office U.S. Department of Homeland Security Press Release February 16, 2005
WASHINGTON Good morning, Chairman Roberts, Vice Chairman Rockefeller and distinguished members of the committee. I am pleased to have the chance to appear before you today to discuss the threats against the United States homeland, as well as some of the capabilities we have developed, and must continue to develop, to confront these threats.
That important link between the intelligence we process and the systems we develop in response cannot be understated. For every possible action we uncover, there must be an intensely focused reaction designed to secure our homeland against that threat. In so many areas of greatest concern vulnerabilities we'veentified such as our transportation systems (particularly air travel), our border functions, and our critical infrastructures such as ports and energy facilities, we've made real, measurable progress that has made our nation more secure.
The topic of our hearing is very straightforward. What is the nature of the worldwide threat. From the DHS perspective, I would make five basic points:
First, the threat is unclear and complex but enduring. The condition is not expected to change. We continue to note attempted entry into the U.S. by aliens who according to intelligence pose a threat.
Second, we assess that al-Qaeda continues to be the primary trans-national threat group, although we are seeing the emergence of other threatening groups and gangs like MS-13 that will also be destabilizing influences.
Third, we think we are most likely to be attacked with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device. However, it remains very clear that our primary adversaries continue to seek weapons of mass effects with which they intend to strike us.
Fourth, at DHS, we continue to make progress in acquiring analysts and improving our capabilities, however, we have not yet achieved full capability in people, facilities, and technical capability. We can and we are doing the job through extraordinary effort on the part of our intelligence professionals.
Lastly, the IC community interaction with DHS has markedly improved over the past year and we continue to work toward full integration and interoperability. The aftermath of the Intelligence Reform Act is being treated as an opportunity to complete that work, to earn the respect of our colleagues as a full and deserving player in the IC and to allow that respect to serve as the foundation DHS needs to fulfill its responsibilities to secure our homeland.
Thankfully, we have not experienced another attack on our soil since September 11th, 2001. But the rest of the world has not been so fortunate. If you ask residents of Madrid, or Beslan, or Bali, or Jakarta, they will assure you that not only the threat, but also the harsh daily reality of terrorism is ongoing.
We realized that an attack here could come in any form, at any place, on any timetable. Terrorist groups even ones whose capabilities may have been weakened by arrests and interdictions worldwide are patient, strategic and methodical in their operational planning. At home, we must prepare ourselves for any attack, from IEDs to weapons of mass destruction from soft targets like malls to national icons.
Intelligence suggests that al-Qaeda may have specific tendencies or certain intentions both small and large scale and our efforts must stay directed to this full range of threats. We must assume that they are assembling, or resembling, the capabilities they dont currently have or those that have been taken from them. So our plan of action like theirs must be even more deliberate and enduring. And it is.
We have built new tools to help in each of the five strategic areas of operational emphasis. Our charter runs from maximum domain awareness through prevention and protection efforts to response and recovery planning. We have published an all-hazards, all-threats National Response Plan (NRP) and its sister document, the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
We have dramatically improved our technical ability to share information. Tools such as the Homeland Security Operations Center, the Homeland Security Information Network, and the Homeland security Advisory system are steps toward full capacity and capability. We know the end-state we want to reach and are methodically designing the path to get there.
We have greatly improved systems to keep track of persons who cross the border, and we have begun to apply technology to monitor the border where there is no human presence. Were operating the US-VISIT program to verify theentity of travelers and stop criminals and terrorists before they can enter our society. Weve signed Smart Border Accords with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico to help the highly trained customs officers, border agents and Coast Guardsmen who monitor and patrol our nations nearly 7,500 miles of land border and 95,000 miles of coastline and waterways.
We are now requiring unprecedented scrutiny of high-risk travelers and flights landing in, or flying over, the United States, including requiring biometric information on visas and passports and agreeing to share passenger data with our European allies. These are important strides that keep the doors of our country open to legitimate visitors, but firmly shut to terrorists.
We know that al-Qaeda would like to impact our economy with attacks on our financial systems, our cyber networks and the vital elements of our global supply chain. So weve taken measures to secure cargo and protect the infrastructure that supports the free and safe movement of goods, people and money.
We launched the Container Security Initiative to target and screen high-risk cargo before it reaches our shores. Today we operate that program alongside our allies in 34 ports around the world. We are in the process of finalizing with the input of all stakeholders a National Cargo Security Strategy.
We included a special section on cyber security in the newly released National Response Plan to enhance government-wide collaboration and coordination to prevent an attack on the backbone of our electronic economy.
And most important, weve been careful to consider the economic impacts and the Privacy implications of any additional security efforts, and worked to ensure that added protections do not detract from our competitiveness or our way of life.
In ways large and smallseen and unseen.with advanced technologies and additional vigilancewith the help of countless agencies and allies at every level of government, in the private sector and throughout the world we have made it harder for terrorists to attack the United States, more difficult for them to defeat our systems, and reduced large gaps they once saw in our security posture.
As the President has said, we are safer than ever beforebut we are still not safe. This experiment called DHS is astonishing complex. Some dimensions of the challenge are further along than others. Thats the nature of cultural and transformational change. Im proud to hand over a two year old Department with a solid foundation and a solid sense of direction to our incoming Leadership Team.
I am deeply appreciative of the support, constructive criticism and the resources that have come our way over the past two years. This Committees continued focus and review must remain our nations conscience till we get this work accomplished. Last night, I spoke to a group of 400 young high school people in a program geared to encouraging public service. I promised them that we would do all we could to lighten their burden when its their turn on watch. We can only meet that promise when our national intelligence capability is sound, inclusive, whole. Anything short of that will be unsatisfactory.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Id be happy to answer any questions you might have.