Dr. James Jay Carafano
Testimony before the Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee
on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International
Mr. Chairman and other
distinguished Members of the committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to assess the
roles of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Justice
in programs for issuing and managing visas.
In my testimony
today, I would like to reaffirm the importance of the efforts by
Congress to strengthen the programs governing the issuance and
management of travel documents; assess the results of the
administration's efforts so far; offer principles and issues that
might guide the next steps; and offer specific recommendations for
the way forward.
In the wake of
9/11, the Congress and the administration turned its attention to
strengthening the issuance and management of visas. They were right
to do so and make this effort a very high priority in the global
effort to diminish terrorist travel. Terrorists have tried
virtually every means available to get to the United States. The
overwhelming number of known and suspected terrorists, however,
have traveled and remained here in the same manner as most foreign
visitors, employing a nonimmigrant visa, which can be obtained from
any of the 211 American consulates around the world or under
certain circumstances within this country. The length of stay
varies depending on the type of visa. Travelers holding
nonimmigrant visas comprise the majority of individuals entering
the United States.
Additionally, others obtain immigration visas or are visitors
carrying passports from the 27 countries participating in the visa
A recent study of 94 foreign-born terrorists by Janice Kephart,
former counsel for the September 11 Commission, revealed that
virtually all used some form of travel documentation to enter or
remain in the United States.
Not only do most
terrorists mask their movements by using legitimate means of trade
and travel, they often break the law in the process. Kephart noted
that over half of the subjects in her study committed some kind of
fraud in pursuance of obtaining documentation.
Some were also known or suspected terrorists before they entered
this country. These facts suggest that an appropriate screening of
visa issuance and monitoring the use of visas and foreign-issued
passports could be an effective layer in interdicting terrorist
travel and restricting their freedom of movement within the United
Winning the war on
terrorism, however, requires more than just stopping individual
plotters. It also means building a strong America-a free and
prosperous nation that can out compete and out last the nation's
enemies while we hunt down their leaders, destroy their
sanctuaries, disrupt their networks, cut-off their sources of
funding, support, and recruiting, and discredit their ideology. The
effective management of visas and passports has a vital role to
play here as well.
Maintaining the free flow of people, goods, services, and ideas
across America's borders are also vital national security
interests. Arguably, reduction and delay in the issuance visas
since 9/11 for security concerns have had a significant economic
impact and reduced U.S. competitiveness.
In regards to the
system of visas and passports that facilitate international travel,
major challenges remain in meeting the equally compelling demands
of better security, economic growth, and strengthening civil
society. In particular, serious obstacles remain to providing
adequate physical infrastructure at counselor offices and border
entry and exit points, enhancing human capital programs, and
improving the integration and sharing of information between
intelligence and information data bases.
On the other hand,
there has been progress in both improving customer service and
strengthening the security of visa issuance and management since
9/11. In virtually every category, visa issuance levels were higher
in 2004, than in 2003.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office noted improvements
in the application of the Visas Mantis program for adjudicating
visas for science students and scholars.
The Departments of
State, Justice, and Homeland Security are working to harmonize
their policies, operations, and information technology
significance, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael
Chertoff, recently announced a reorganization of his department.
Among the initiatives was the creation of an Office of Policy,
Planning, and International Affairs which the secretary intends to
ask the Congress be managed under a new Undersecretary position.
The secretary also announced his intent to create a Chief
Intelligence Officer to oversee all the department's intelligence
These initiatives should provide strong leadership from the
department for overseeing its responsibilities for visa and
important, while we recognize there is still much work to be done
to strengthen existing programs, there is evidence to suggest that
transnational terrorist groups perceive that the United States is a
'harder" target than it was before 9/11. In part, this is reflected
in increased efforts to organize and conduct operations in Europe
and recruit operatives who are holders of passports from Visa
Waiver countries or U.S. citizens.
The Point of
Decision-Incremental Improvement or Transformation
The main issue I
would like to bring before this committee is not what can be done
to strengthen the current programs that divide responsibilities
between three major federal departments, but whether we should
continue to proceed on this course or take a new path. As noted in
a recent report by the Migration Policy Institute, despite many the
changes in visa and passport application, issuance, and oversight,
the basic legislative framework that governs the system "has not
changed in significant ways."
Four years of experience have shown us that incremental gains in
security under this system are costly, disruptive, and difficult to
implement. Recognizing that the war on terrorism will be a long
protracted conflict and that the requirements for free and
efficient international travel will be enduring for any country
that wants to remain competitive in the 21st century-it
is time for the Congress to ask whether we should consider an
At the heart of
the shortfalls of the current system is the requirement for
multiple agencies to balance the multiple priorities of security,
economy, and civil society. To the maximum extent possible these
programs should be consolidated under the agency whose core
competencies and principle missions most closely align with the
In particular, as
pointed in a bipartisan study conducted by The Center for Strategic
and International Studies and The Heritage Foundation, little
synergy has been gained by splitting responsibility for visa
programs between the Departments of State and Homeland Security
won't be made until an appropriate consolidation of authority and
responsibility has been undertaken. I believe that should be in the
DHS. Despite its name, the DHS is the federal government's "center
of gravity" for issues involving international trade and travel.
The term "homeland security" is misleading. Virtually no
homeland security program can be implemented effectively
without the support and cooperation of America's friends and allies
around the world. On the other hand, security is not about
"pushing our borders out," making other nations bear the
burden of protecting U.S. citizens. Homeland security is really a
cooperative effort that enables nations to serve their mutual
interests and protect their citizens-as well as the global
economic lifelines that carry the free flow of goods, services,
peoples, and ideas-against the threat of transnational
While the Homeland Security Act of 2002 gave
the Secretary of the DHS exclusive authority to issue regulations
and administer the visa program, consular officers remained part of
the Department of State.
This was a mistake. For the DHS to fulfill its responsibilities in
the visa process, and because of the national security aspect of
visa approvals, the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office of Visa
Services should be placed under the DHS.
Principles for a 21st Century
As a second step, the DHS and the Congress
need to start with a blank sheet of paper and redesign a system for
the 21st century. This vision should provide (1) a new,
simplified legislative framework to govern immigration law; (2) a
bold new infrastructure investment plan; (3) an innovative human
capital program; and (4) a roadmap for transforming the current
system into a 21st century system.
Here are some principles that might guide
Principle #1 Security, Economic Growth, and
Civil Society are Equal Priorities. Any framework for managing
visa programs must meet all three national priorities. An effective
system would: (1) Keep legitimate travel documents out of the hands
of known or suspected terrorists and prevent them from using
fraudulent documents; (2) Minimize impediments to legitimate
travel; (3) Protect the liberties and privacy of U.S. citizens,
provide reciprocal benefits to the citizens of friendly and allied
Principle #2 Integrity is Important.
The rule of law must be maintained if immigration laws are to serve
as a deterrent to criminals and terrorists. The United States
should only have immigration laws it is willing to fully enforce
and it should allocate the resources to fully enforce those
Principle #3 Visas and Passports don't have
to Do it All. Visas and passports are part of a layered
international security system for fighting transnational terrorism.
The United States should not over invest in attempting to build a
perfect system. The biggest bang for the security buck is in
effective counterterrorism, intelligence and early warning programs
that thwart terrorist acts before they occur. These must be fully
Principle #4 Stop Wasting 90 percent of
Security Assets on 90 percent of the people that aren't a
problem. Mandatory screening or interview programs that waste
time and effort on low-risk individuals have to be eliminated. The
best system is one that will require security and screening
personnel to focus maximum resources on high-risk individuals-known
or suspected terrorists and transnational criminals.
Principle #5 Think Outside the Box.
There is no inherent reason why counselor services need to be
conducted at State Department facilities or why the United States
should be wedded to the current infrastructure and programs
employed to manage trade and travel.
Principle #6 Engage the Private Sector.
The federal government has the responsibility to ensure that
policies and priorities are implemented to standard, but that does
not mean that visa and passport activities must be conducted by the
federal government. The private sector is far more adept at
accommodating to the changing environment of global trade and
travel. Private sector solutions should be aggressively sought
Principle #7 Take Time and Get it
Right. The terrorists aren't going anywhere. It took over five
years to plan the 9/11 attacks, three years to organize the Madrid
bombings. The next may occur tomorrow-or maybe in the works for a
decade from now. Transnational terrorist are endemic threat to a
globalized world. What is needed are long-term solutions to a
As the Congress looks at the broad scope of
visa issuance and management programs, in addition to rethinking
the overall strategic direction of these efforts, there are several
specific issues that it might consider.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver program should be strengthened
and expanded. New criteria need to be added to account for
transnational security threats and document surety. The program
also needs to be expanded. Every country that is added to the
program allows U.S. resources to focus on other more pressing
security concerns. In addition, adding countries will strengthen
ties with emerging strategic allies. The United States should work
with targeted nations such as India, South Korea, Poland, and the
Czech Republic to establish a joint roadmap to reach a Visa Waiver
program agreement within five years.
The TSC plays an important role in providing
intelligence support for the visa issuance and monitoring process.
Responsibility for managing the center should be given to the DHS
and its functions better integrated with the National Targeting
Center and the Law Enforcement Support Center.
State and Local Support for Immigration
State and local governments must provide more
support for enforcing immigration laws. The integrity of these laws
must be restored. In addition, state, local and federal officials
must work closely together to combat transnational threats. This
means both more law enforcement and increasing capacity in a manner
that respects civil liberties and the roles and responsibilities of
federal and state authorities. Adequate authorities already exist.
Instead, Congress should promote the use of Section 287(g) of the
Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) as a better mechanism for
enabling state and local law enforcement to join in the global war
against terrorism. Congress must create incentives to use this
program and demand that the DHS places more emphasis on using this
potentially valuable tool.
Consolidation of Border Support
In "consolidating" responsibility for border,
immigration, and transportation security, DHS actually increased
the number of involved, creating more problems that now need
These agencies should be consolidated into a single border services
agency. This agency should provide all operational support for visa
issuance and monitoring both in the United States and
Visa Security Program
The DHS Visa Security Program was established
under the authorities of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Its
purpose is in part to help coordinate visa policies, provide
training to counselor officers and assist in the review of
applications in Saudi Arabia. The program lacks strategic
direction, adequate resources, and the current legislation
authorizing the program is too restrictive.
The program should be restructured and integrated into a single DHS
border services agency.
The DHS lacks an institution to serve as a
focus for professional development of its leaders and a forum for
educating other leaders in other agencies and other countries,
similar to the Defense Department's War Colleges and National
Defense University. One major are of study at the Homeland Security
University should be the subject of terrorist travel.
I hope this committee will provide a
leadership role in encouraging the Congress to rethink our national
system for visa issuance and monitoring, as well as tackling the
perplexing issues of interagency cooperation that prevent the
current system from being as effective as it could be. I look
forward to discussing these and other issues and recommendations
during the course of the hearing.
Once again, thank you, Mr. Chairman and the
rest of the Committee for holding this hearing and for inviting me
to participate. I look forward to answering any questions you might