For the third year in a row, The Heritage Foundation has highlighted the policies, people, and ideas that contribute to national security in our Protect America Month. We were delighted to host speakers, such as Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R–CA), who gave the opening address, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R–NH), The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld, and Representative Allen West (R–FL), who concluded the month. We had many guest blogs on The Foundry, and continued our America at Risk series. The killing of Osama bin Laden re-focused the country on defense and homeland security issues as will the anticipated 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this fall. As we wrap up Protect America Month, we highlight our latest research on counterterrorism, defense policy, and missile defense.
For every dollar spent on the right investments, five more have been spent on silly efforts to childproof the supply chain. Examples of efforts to scan every cargo container or passenger, screen every box, or regulate the way to security are bountiful. These labors have proved to be a black hole: Millions (if not billions) of taxpayer dollars go in with little security to show for the investment.
One of the most important lessons from 9/11, and, subsequently, Hurricane Katrina was that state and local governments are the first on the scene when disaster strikes. Washington should not and cannot be the center of the universe for homeland security. Yet each President over the past 50 years has surpassed his predecessor in the number of federal disaster declarations issued—pushing dependency on Washington and shortchanging state and local efforts.
This survey aggregates international data on global and domestic terrorism from the past 40 years. Combined with new intelligence, this data can better inform U.S. counterterrorism decisions and continue the process of delineating enhanced homeland security policies for the future. From 1969 to 2009, almost 5,600 people lost their lives and more than 16,300 people suffered injuries due to international terrorism directed at the United States. The onus is now on the President and Congress to ensure that the U.S. continues to hone and sharpen its counterterrorism capabilities and adapt them to evolving 21st-century threats.
The Heritage Foundation began tracking foiled terror plots against the U.S. in 2007—counting at least 19 foiled plots since 9/11. Today, that count stands at 39 plots against the U.S. foiled—thanks overwhelmingly to the Bush-era policies of enhanced information sharing and intelligence gathering. Three Heritage national security experts summarize the data, explain the lessons that Americans should learn from the anti-terror successes, and delineate essential principles that American policymakers should follow to continue to protect this country and its citizens.
Recognizing that there are legitimate situations in which a particular passport applicant might warrant additional scrutiny (e.g., an applicant lacking a birth certificate), the Administration should rethink the nature, scope, and application of the biographical questionnaire and design one that is reasonable in terms of data sought and from whom the information is requested. This should be accompanied by reforms in information sharing between the State Department and other federal agencies to better connect the dots in terrorism and criminal investigations. Finally, the Department of State should ensure that reforms in the passport process do not discourage legitimate travelers from traveling.
China and the United States have very different views of the purpose of military-to-military contacts. The American side seeks to create rules and norms, in order to make the two sides’ actions more predictable. The American side also wants to have more direct contact between American operators, whether it is the captain of a Navy ship or the head of Pacific Command, and their Chinese counterparts, in order to nip problems in the bud.
In the most recent talks, the American side seems to have far less sense of purpose than the Chinese. It would seem that the main American objective is to have more meetings in the future. Some in the defense community would like to talk about China’s military space program or Chinese cyber intrusions and activities. And Beijing may well agree to talk about these things—but does the Administration expect China to actually give up its counter-space capabilities, stop its computer network exploitation and attack activities, or share anything about its capabilities in these areas?
America is a maritime power, and a strong U.S. Navy is both in America’s long-term interest and essential to the nation’s prosperity. Yet U.S. sea power is in decline. If not reversed, this decline could pass the tipping point, leaving the country economically and strategically unable to reverse course, which would have profound economic and geopolitical consequences. Members of Congress and the Navy need to work together to develop long-range technology road maps, foster innovation, and properly fund and manage shipbuilding to ensure that the future Navy has the size and capabilities needed to protect and advance U.S. interests around the world.
The U.S. missile defenses are not keeping pace with the proliferation of threats. The Obama Administration has made massive cuts in the missile defense programs, cancelled promising programs, disappointed allies by pulling out of joint programs, and negotiated an arms reduction treaty with Russia that imposes sweeping restrictions on U.S. missile defense options. These changes in policy and programs indicate that the Obama Administration is seriously misreading the situation, both domestically and internationally, and trying to use Cold War–style deterrence to counter modern threats. Congress needs to put the U.S. missile defense program back on track and enact into law a U.S. “protect and defend strategy” to replace the outdated Cold War deterrence strategy.
The Navy has worked hard to develop the command and control system for the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system. Initial emphasis by both the Missile Defense Agency and the Navy was on acquiring a reliable ballistic missile interceptor. Only recently has there been a focused effort to develop the command and control system to support the currently available Standard Missile 3 Block IA BMD interceptor, which is on board select Navy cruisers and destroyers. The focus on improving Aegis command and control for BMD is necessary for two reasons. The first is to improve the reliability and effectiveness of the Aegis BMD system for countering short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which the system is already capable of countering. The second is to accelerate the plan for giving the Aegis BMD system the ability to counter long-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).