October 11, 2002 | Lecture on Department of Homeland Security

Promise and Progress: Homeland Security One Year Post-9/11

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to say a few words on this very important topic, especially in New York City where we all stand in the shadow of what tragically transpired here a year ago.

Like so many people, I personally feel very close to this issue. I am originally from New York, and my father at one time worked in the World Trade Center. I visited him there.

On September 11 of last year, I was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. But that morning, I was actually on the taxiway at Dulles on a United flight to San Francisco and a few planes behind American flight 77, which tragically found its way to the Pentagon.

My plane fortunately never got off the ground that day and returned safely to the terminal. After accounting for the folks in my office, I was called back into the Pentagon--still burning and belching smoke--to help develop our response to these terrible events.

I spent the next 40-plus hours at the Pentagon working with many others on what was to become the global war on terrorism and securing our homeland. We've made significant progress due to the outstanding work of many hard-working people, but there's still more to do.

Before I get started, I want to commend the organizers of this very timely conference as well as congratulate all of today's awardees, who will receive Maritime Security Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contributions to maritime security.

I especially want to congratulate Ambassador Bill Middendorf, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of my organization, the Heritage Foundation. Congratulations, Ambassador, and all the other awardees.

Terrorism and the need for homeland security

On September 11, we learned that America is not impervious to terrorism. Despite significant success against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, experts suggest that a new wave of terrorism involving new--and perhaps even more powerful--weapons looms in our nation's future.

Today's terrorists can strike anywhere, at any moment, and with a wide variety of weapons--from biological weapons to cyber attacks. Perhaps most difficult to conjure is that we may never be sure that we have ultimately defeated those who aim to harm us. Therefore, we can never again allow ourselves to become complacent about the security of our nation.

Two concepts have become evident about modern terrorism.

  • First, the openness of American society makes us susceptible to terrorism.
  • Second, the means and knowledge required to conduct terror are proliferating rapidly and are available to many.

These two facts mean that the threat of terrorism is likely to be an enduring condition of this country's and this century's security environment. The country is now in a state of war, and securing our homeland is--and will continue to be--a new national calling. We all must answer this call.

The government of the United States has no more important priority than securing our nation from terrorism. This effort will obviously involve major new programs at all echelons of American government, by the private sector, and international partners: essentially, a cross-section of the people sitting in this room today.

America's Response

The extraordinary response to terrorism began immediately. Almost all Americans contributed in some meaningful way through personal bravery, support, or compassion. We all saw the pictures. We have much to be proud of as a nation.

Congress appropriated $40 billion to wage war in Afghanistan, aid the reconstruction efforts, and enhance security. $10.6 billion was allocated directly to homeland security, which enabled the government to:

  • Increase the number of sky marshals on our airplanes;
  • Procure enough medicine to treat up to 10 million more people for anthrax or other bacterial infection;
  • Distribute $1.1 billion to states to strengthen their capacity to respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies resulting from terrorism;
  • Deploy hundreds of Coast Guard cutters, aircraft, and small boats to patrol the approaches to our ports and protect them from internal or external threats;
  • Acquire equipment for certain major mail sorting facilities to find and destroy anthrax bacteria and other biological agents; and
  • Station 8,000 National Guard troops at baggage screening checkpoints at 420 major airports.

Moreover, since the attacks of last September, the Administration has identified potential terrorist targets and put in place additional security. This includes airports, sea and water ports, nuclear facilities, dams, water and sewer plants, electric power plants, gas pipelines, dams and bridges, and biological and chemical facilities.

At the state level, the National Governors' Association has estimated that states have spent at least $650 million to help protect their citizens. Additionally, the states that border our neighbors to the South and North have shared with the federal government the responsibility for bolstering America's land borders and increasing security at crossing points into the United States.

Local governments have also answered the call by spending $525 million for additional security, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In addition, they expect that these urban governments will spend about $2.1 billion in 2002 on securing their cities.

It is evident that homeland security efforts will require significant new spending by federal, state, and local authorities. All in all, it is estimated that $100 billion will be spent annually by federal, state, and local governments and private business on an array of homeland security measures--not including the U.S. armed forces and their efforts in the war on terrorism.

Maritime Security

As you know, the U.S. seaport and maritime system is an integral part of what makes the United States the world's largest trading nation. One drawback of this proud fact is that ships may well serve as a medium for terrorist activities. Despite this, I would suggest, it is possible to keep global commerce moving while putting in place systems, practices, and procedures that will reduce our risk and vulnerability to terrorism.

Vulnerabilities in the U.S. maritime system include undetected dangerous cargoes in sea containers, the hazardous nature of energy products carried in tanker vessels, passengers on cruise ships, visiting merchant seamen, and seaports located near major cities like the venue for today's conference--New York City.

But in some ways, the homeland security mission is not new to us. Protecting more than 361 ports and 95,000 miles of coastline, homeland security is more visible today than it was prior to the tragic events of September 11, but it is just as important as it was when we first began protecting our national sovereignty over 200 years ago.

Consider for a moment the following statistics:

  • The nation's 361 seaports see the arrival of 30 million containers a year--that's $2 billion a day in seaborne trade.
  • 95 percent of America's overseas trade travels by ship.
  • Approximately 90 percent of the world's cargo moves by container.
  • Globally, over 200 million cargo containers move between major seaports each year.

On a more local level:

  • Every day, more than 6,000 containers arrive in the port of New York and New Jersey.
  • Last year, these ports received more than 5,000 ships and handled 6 million containers, 560,000 automobiles, and more petroleum products than any other port.

It should be obvious that maritime trade, and therefore maritime security, is critical to America's future.

It has been said that maritime trade is the most valuable, and perhaps the most vulnerable, sector of the world's economy. It must be protected. Improving the security of our maritime transportation networks, therefore, is about preventing terrorists from using these systems as an instrument of terror while continuing international maritime commerce.

Maritime security roles are shared among federal, state, local, and private authorities--from the Coast Guard and Customs Service to port authorities. Some of these security roles are:

  • Protecting ports and deploying port security units;
  • Maintaining maritime border security against contraband and even weapons of mass destruction;
  • Coordinating efforts and intelligence and information with federal, state, and local agencies;
  • Screening and securing containers overseas before they reach American shores.

This is not only a domestic concern. We must work internationally as well with our global trading partners such as overseas megaports in Europe and Asia. We must seek universal standards of security and information sharing.

By working together, we can jointly achieve far greater security for maritime shipping than by working independently. Recognizing that trade is vital to the world economy and our way of life, we must strive to achieve a more secure maritime trade environment while ensuring economic efficiencies in global commerce.

Homeland Security and the 2003 Budget

The President's budget for fiscal year 2003 allocates $37.7 billion to homeland security. This is an increase of $18.2 billion from this fiscal year.

This year's budget focuses on five urgent policy initiatives. These initiatives are:

  • Supporting first responders: firemen, policemen, and emergency medical technicians;
  • Defending against bioterrorism;
  • Securing America's borders;
  • Using 21st century technology to secure the homeland; and
  • Establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Several other key policy areas also need to be addressed. To remedy remaining vulnerabilities and further strengthen homeland security this year, the Administration and Congress should:

  • Create a better system for intelligence and information sharing
    Information is our first line of defense, and it must be shared both vertically within organizations and horizontally across organizations involved in homeland security.
  • Consolidate first-responder programs and develop a national training network for state and local first responders
    The President's First Responder Initiative and the establishment of the DHS are good first steps toward improving federal efforts to prepare the nation's first responders for terrorist incidents. Yet more should be done, including developing a national system of hands-on educational facilities that consolidate federal assistance programs in their respective regions and function as "one-stop shopping" for training, information, and education programs for first responders.
  • Develop a comprehensive program of terrorism-response exercises
    A critical element of preparing for further terrorism against the homeland will be conducting exercises that simulate WMD (weapons of mass destruction) events. Such exercises should be included in a national strategy for first responders.
  • Expedite the development of a national health surveillance network
    Since September 11, concerns about the ability of terrorists to harm large numbers of people with chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) agents have focused public attention on the lack of local preparedness in this area. To mobilize a rapid response to such attacks, officials must be able to recognize early outbreaks of catastrophic illnesses or the contamination of food and water supplies. A nationwide network of local surveillance systems must be established to monitor and rapidly disseminate information about such occurrences across all levels of government.
  • Expand the role of the National Guard to include homeland security
    As a first responder in domestic emergencies, the Guard is well-positioned to assume the lead military role in homeland security, but current law stipulates that the Guard must focus on providing strategic support services to active duty forces. Steps must be taken to redefine the Guard's mission to include homeland security.
  • Establish a federal team to facilitate state and local strategies that complement the national homeland security strategy
    Homeland security transcends all levels of government and depends on the willing cooperation of all involved. To ensure that the design of state and local counterterrorism plans is compatible with the federal strategy, DHS should establish a team to travel to the states and local communities to help local homeland security officials develop and implement plans that complement the national strategy.
  • Establish standing committees on homeland security in both chambers of Congress
    Today, the House alone has at least 14 full committees and 25 subcommittees that claim jurisdiction over different aspects of programs related to terrorism and homeland security. To complement the creation of a DHS and facilitate Congress's legislative and budgetary role in homeland security, both the House and Senate should form a standing committee on homeland security with sole jurisdiction for the functions assumed by DHS. Subcommittees should be established to address the departmental divisions proposed by the President: border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, CBRN countermeasures, intelligence analysis, and infrastructure protection.

Department of Homeland Security

Perhaps the most ambitious of the new policy initiatives is the President's proposal to consolidate 22 federal agencies and 170,000 employees into a new Department of Homeland Security. This will be the largest restructuring of the federal government since 1947 and the establishment of the Department of Defense.

The establishment of a DHS would consolidate responsibility and accountability for homeland security and create a unity of purpose among the agencies currently responsible for this mission. The new department will unite the efforts of 100 federal agencies and organizations that have homeland security responsibilities.

The three key objectives of the new department will be:

  • Preventing terrorist attacks;
  • Reducing America's vulnerability to terrorism; and
  • Minimizing the damage and recovery from attacks that do occur.

The four functions of the DHS will be:

  • Border and transportation security;
  • Emergency preparedness and response;
  • Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear countermeasures; and
  • Information analysis and critical infrastructure protection.

The new department will be tasked with:

  • Ensuring that police, firefighters, and hospitals have the equipment, training, and communications they need to fulfill the first responder mission;
  • Helping to protect the nation's waters, airports, and seaports;
  • Monitoring all visitors to this country;
  • Setting guidelines and conducting drills to help states and local communities prepare for possible attack;
  • Leading a national scientific effort to develop diagnostics and vaccines against terrorism;
  • Communicating threat information to public officials and the private sector; and
  • Fusing intelligence from the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies and comparing it to vulnerabilities in the nation's critical infrastructure.

In the coming years, it will be working to:

  • Enhance the analytical capabilities of the FBI;
  • Create smart borders;
  • Improve the security of international shipping containers;
  • Recapitalize the Coast Guard;
  • Prevent terrorist use of nuclear weapons through better sensors and procedures;
  • Develop broad-spectrum vaccines, anti-microbials, and antidotes; and
  • Integrate information sharing across the government.

The Congress has not yet finished its work on the legislation that will establish the new department, slated to be opened in January 2003. There are many critical issues that need to be resolved, including ensuring that the President and the new Secretary of Homeland Security have the needed management flexibility in terms of reorganization, budgetary transfer authority, and personnel to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the DHS and the safety and security of our country.


America must be protected from future terrorist attack. This obligation is at once immediate and long-term. It will occupy future generations' time, effort, and resources.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon of last September placed homeland security at the top of the nation's priorities. Since then, the President, Congress, state and local authorities, and the private sector have done much to meet daunting new challenges to our security.

At the same time, however, there are many areas that require additional attention--including maritime security. As our security and well-being lies in the balance, it is more important now than ever that the right decisions be made in a timely manner.

--Peter Brookes is Senior Research Fellow for Homeland Defense and National Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. This lecture is adapted from remarks delivered at the Maritime Security Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City on September 18, 2002.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy