How to Fix the 100 Hours Homeland Security Bill
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Establish federal guidelines for the use of data-mining
- 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
- 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.