In its final report, the 9/11 Commission made 40 different recommendations for improving America's homeland security. Congress responded by passing the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which implemented the report's most significant proposals.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (H.R. 1) as part of the Speaker of the House's "100 Hours" agenda. H.R. 1 claims to follow the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission's report but is actually filled with flawed proposals.
Flawed Provisions. Congress should remove the following flawed provisions:
- 100 percent container inspection. H.R. 1 calls for 100 percent container inspection, requiring that every container and package shipped from overseas must be inspected and secured with seals to prevent any breach in the container. In addition to not being cost-effective, this requirement will not make the United States any safer.
- New grant programs. Two proposals would create new grant programs to fund state and local community projects. As the 9/11 Commission noted, homeland security grants are in danger of becoming vehicles of pork-barrel legislation.
- New reporting and management requirements for the National Asset Database. Continued emphasis on the overly inclusive National Asset Database prevents the federal government from focusing on infrastructure that is truly vital to the nation.
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unionization. H.R. 1 would revoke the TSA's ability to decide whether or not workers may join unions. The TSA was given this flexibility to ensure that it could respond rapidly to terrorist threats.
- Expansion of the Broadcasting Board of Governors' role. Although the focus on public diplomacy is correct, expanding the B's role would be a mistake because the BBG has often been the source of problems with U.S. international broadcasting.
- Conditions on U.S. aid to Pakistan. Placing conditions on aid to Pakistan could hurt U.S.- Pakistan relations, weaken the Pakistani government, and undermine U.S. objectives in the war on terrorism.
- Reorganization of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Title VII of H.R. 1 would reorganize the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and redefine its mission. Yet, in its first nine months, the board has already demonstrated its usefulness by issuing the first-ever set of federal guidelines for interagency sharing of terrorism-related information.
- Counterproliferation programs and restrictions. The bill proposes many initiatives to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These initiatives are unnecessary and were not recommended by the 9/11 Commission report.
Needed Reforms. Instead, Congress should:
- Accelerate Coast Guard modernization. Maritime security means preventing dangers from ever entering a U.S. port, and this is the domain of the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Establish legislative mandates for specific federal agencies to perform specific tasks. Legislation would serve not only as a contract between Congress and the Administration on the way forward, but also as a guide to congressional appropriators.
- Establish federal guidelines for the use of data-mining technologies.
- Strengthen the Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII) program. To encourage private industry to submit information to the PCII program, Congress should clarify to whom and under what conditions the information may be disseminated or used in private litigation.
- Consider broader reforms of the TSA workforce to allow for greater flexibility and privatization of aviation security.
- Restructure the leadership of the U.S. international broadcasting entities and streamline their functions to maximize effectiveness by avoiding overlap and duplication.
- Take steps to convince Pakistan that the U.S. is committed to stabilizing Afghanistan and countering the Taliban until the job is done. Such efforts are more likely to coax greater cooperation from the Pakistani government in dealing with Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders on its territory.
- Allow the Administration maximum flexibility in implementing the Proliferation Security Initiative. As currently structured, the PSI allows participating states to focus on interdicting weapons-related shipments instead of building an international bureaucracy.
Conclusion. Crafting homeland security legislation that makes America safer, freer, and more prosperous will require stripping the most egregious proposals from H.R. 1 and adding measures that will make homeland security more efficient and effective. America does not need a bill that simply throws money at the problem, implements symbolic programs that add little real security, advances political agendas that have little to do with security, and adds more requirements to the Department of Homeland Security's already overloaded to-do list.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Allison Center, James Sherk is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis, Brian W. Walsh is Senior Legal Research Fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center, and Helle C. Dale is Director of the Allison Center at The Heritage Foundation.