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RESPONDING TO HOMELAND THREATS: IS

OUR GOVERNMENT ORGANIZED FOR THE CHALLENGE?

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2001

U.S. SENATE,
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS,

Washington, DC. The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:02 a.m., in room SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman, Chairman of the Committee, presiding.

Present: Senators Lieberman, Cleland, and Thompson.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN LIEBERMAN Chairman LIEBERMAN. The hearing will come to order. I apologize to witnesses and to everyone in the room that we had to delay the hearing because there were two votes on the floor of the Senate. If this does not sound, to two of our witnesses, Senators Rudman and Hart, like deja vu all over again, I would be surprised, but I welcome all of you here this morning.

This morning, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will be considering a question of whether the Federal Government, and specifically the Executive Branch, is adequately organized to meet threats to the security of the American people in the 50 American States. Today's hearing complements the series of hearings that the Committee has been conducting on protection of the Nation's critical infrastructure. It is, also, of course, a response to the terrible attacks on America that occurred on September 11.

My personal response to those attacks has probably been like the response of most other Americans, most other members of Congress. I have gone from shock to anger to remorse to determination that we must, together, do everything we can to make as certain as possible that nothing like what happened on September 11 ever happens again. The nature, scale, and motivation of the attacks were unprecedented and so must be our response.

This Governmental Affairs Committee is primarily an oversight and investigative Committee. What we must now attempt to understand is how this violation of our Nation was possible. In particular, we must ask the difficult question of whether our government did enough to protect its citizens. With the horrifying images of devastation at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania still fresh in our minds, the answer to that question must, sadly, be no.

The purpose of these hearings, in one sense, is to make sure that we never have to give that answer to that kind of question again. After the attacks, the people who are our government did all that was humanly possible to respond. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the firefighters and police whose courageous efforts saved countless lives at the cost of so many of their own, to the EMT personnel, and doctors, and nurses who administered aid to the injured and dying, to the public servants who manned the crisis support machinery at all levels of government, managing priorities, handling logistics and making key services of relief and rescue available, to members of the military who were deployed to guard against further loss of life, to elected leaders who brought a sense of hope, unity, and purpose to a Nation stunned by this tragedy, including, most recently, the magnificent statement of American principles and purpose that President Bush delivered to the Congress, to the Nation, and indeed to the world last night.

primary purpose here this morning is not to assign blame, it is to prevent future attacks. Even before last week's tragic attacks, we had important warnings that our government was not as well-prepared to meet these new threats to our security to the American homeland as it should have been. For that, we can thank the dedicated efforts of at least two important commissions that recently looked at this issue: The U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission; and the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism involving Weapons of Mass Destruction referred to as the Gilmore Commission, which have identified serious deficiencies in our Nation's efforts to prepare for, respond to, and prevent terrorist acts.

And, I am proud to say, we can also thank our own General Accounting Office, whose oversight committee this is and whose Comptroller, David Walker, will testify this morning. GAO has given us repeated warnings that are relevant to our agenda this morning.

The chief members of the two panels that I referred to are with us today: Senator Hart, Senator Rudman, Governor Gilmore, and Ambassador Bremer. I should note that Ambassador Bremer was also chair of another commission, the National Commission on Terrorism that, in some respects, laid the foundation for the work that has followed.

Though they differ in their approach and recommendations, I do see agreement between the Hart-Rudman and Gilmore Commissions on three key points: First, they concluded that there was a growing threat of homeland attack and how painfully accurate they have now been proven to be; second, that the Nation lacked a clear strategy to prevent and protect against these threats; and, third, that responsibility for homeland security was spread among too many agencies without sufficient coordination.

In fact, current responsibility for addressing terrorism and other homeland threats is diffused throughout all levels of governmentlocal, State, and Federal. At the Federal level, coordination, operational planning, and implementation are divided and subdivided $11 billion a year. Both commissions criticize this state of organization and offered recommendations to improve homeland security.

The Hart-Rudman Commission proposed the establishment of a National Homeland Security Agency, an independent agency whose director would be a member of the President's Cabinet. The Agency would be responsible for coordinating an array of Federal activities related to homeland security. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, and other entities that are relevant here would be transferred to the new organization, which would be functionally organized around prevention, protection of critical infrastructure, and emergency preparedness and response.

The Gilmore Commission went in a different direction, recommending the creation of a National Office for Combatting Terrorism. This new White House office would report directly to the President and would be responsible for formulating antiterrorism strategy. It would also coordinate terrorism policy and have some influence over national budget allocations for antiterrorism activities.

I must say that I come to this hearing favoring the Hart-Rudman approach, but I want to hear from all sides in this important discussion. I favor the Hart-Rudman approach because it seems to me that creating a Homeland Security Agency has special merit. If you want to get a job done, there is no substitute for having an organization with a budget and line, as opposed to advisory authority. Because in such a context, real people are responsible and accountable for making decisions and taking the necessary and appropriate action. Within an executive agency, all of the policy, budget, and programmatic activities can be integrated and focused toward very specific programs and goals.

Now, as we all know, last night a funny and good thing happened on the way to this hearing about a National Homeland Security Agency. President Bush, in fact, endorsed such an idea. In fact, he went beyond that and, by Executive Order, created a National Homeland Security Agency with Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania as its designated head with cabinet status.

This morning it is not clear what the contours, makeup and powers of that agency will be. I certainly look forward to having this Committee meet with Governor Ridge and others in the administration to discuss this proposal, but I feel very strongly, though I greet President Bush's action last night as a welcome and significant first step toward greater homeland protection, that Congress needs to pass a law, after deliberate consideration, to make this Homeland Security Agency permanent because it is clear that we crossed a bridge on September 11, and in a way that has not been true for most of our history for the future as far as we can see. We are going to have to be prepared to protect the American people as they live and work in the 50 United States.

In the history of America's Government, major organizational changes have occurred during times of crisis. General Marshall transformed what was a small peacetime Army in 1939 into the planet's most powerful military force by 1945, helping to bring vicPresident Truman's realignment of our national security infrastructure in 1947 helped us successfully prosecute the Cold War. More recently, the sweeping defense reorganization mandated by the Goldwater-Nickles Act of 1986 was an essential factor in helping us win the Gulf War just 5 years later. Similarly bold organiza

5 tional change is demanded of us now, given the events of September 11. This Committee can lead the Congress to that change, and I hope and believe that we will.

I am very pleased to be working shoulder-to-shoulder on these critical questions of national security with my friend from Tennessee, the Committee's Ranking Republican, Senator Fred Thompson. I am proud to call on him now.

OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR THOMPSON Senator THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I cannot think of a more timely hearing than this one or a more important one.

Speaking of coordination or lack thereof, as you know, both parties have conferences going on right now which will probably keep some of our people away or some may be coming in a little bit later. We very well may be discussing some of the issues we are discussing here. You and I have discussed what Congress should do, in terms of its organization or reorganization.

I would certainly appreciate our alums here commenting on whether or not we need a select committee or a different committee or what we should do about current jurisdiction. As you know, we have jurisdiction over Capitol Hill, as well as the Executive Branch. So I am going to leave briefly, and hopefully come back, if that is satisfactory.

I want to start out by thanking the gentlemen at this table. I think the whole Nation owes you a debt of gratitude. You have all been telling us what we needed to hear for a long time. Our country, and I suppose maybe all democracies which are not interested in matters of war or aggression or anything other than enjoying peace and freedom, was a little slow out of the blocks. We have been very slow out of the blocks here with regard to something that you have told us should be the Nation's number one priority. You also told us that it is not a matter of if we get hit, it is a matter of when we get hit. This is pretty serious business. You have been steadfast. You have been voices in the wilderness for the most part.

We get these reports up here. They do not filter up to the Executive Branch, they do not filter down to the average person. They show up; we have a hearing; three or four of us are around; or maybe not. Maybe you get to page 16, in a report, but nothing really happens, even though we know it is a different world we live in. We are dealing with different kinds of people than we ever have before, and we have vulnerabilities that we have not had before.

We have let our guard down, as other countries have on other occasions. Other democracies have done so after other wars. Ours having been the Cold War victory. While we have enjoyed discussing and consuming our peace dividend, things have happened around us that we have not responded to. I am very pleased, especially that the people we work with so closely on a daily basis, and we inundate them with all of our little pet ideas sometimes, that

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I read their strategic plan, several months ago, and told them I thought it was the best document that I had seen. Every member of Congress ought to be required to read it, and this was in there. It had to do with a handful of issues that are important, as most of the things that we deal with up here are not. Of course, this is No. 1.

I hope that, in terms of Senator Rudman, Senator Hart, and Mr. Bremer, that we will be able to keep your services somehow, some way, as we go forward, and continue to enjoy the contribution that you have made to this because more expertise reside in you gentleman probably than anywhere else.

I was noticing, with regard to the counterterrorism organization or lack thereof, staff pulled together some points here that I think bring it home. who is in charge of these activities depends on a number of factors, such as the nature of the incident and the perpetrator. For example, FEMA is the lead Federal agency in charge of consequence management. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is the lead agency for crisis management and for domestic terrorism events. The State Department is designated as the lead agency for counterterrorism overseas. The Federal Aviation Administration is the lead for hijackings, but only after the plane doors have been closed.

We have had presidential directives which have placed substantial responsibility within the NSC. With regard to the announcement last night that the President made, I share your enthusiasm not only for the move, but for the gentleman who will be taking this position. Obviously, we need to know more about what the President has in mind there. I would agree with you, without having talked to him about it or thought it through, that we are going to need some legislation. I am not sure at all that the new person, Governor Ridge, will have the authority he needs in terms of the reorganization problem that we have got or the ability to reprioritize budget matters and things of that nature. So I think we have got to move forward on it.

One approach would be to put the right tools in the hands of the President and let him decide what to do and when to do it. I think it is important that we not tie the President's hands and decide up here unilaterally, precisely in great detail, exactly what should and should not be done. I think we need to work together with the President and take the lessons put forth by the commissions, the GAO, the Department of Justice, and FEMA, and apply them.

One way to do this would be to reauthorize the Reorganization Act, which sunsetted in 1987. That act allowed expedited consideration for any presidential proposals to reorganize Federal agencies and would be a foundation upon which a new and effective strategy for defeating terrorists could be built. It is just another idea to go along with the very good ones that you have set forth, Mr. Chairman. So I think that we are now on the right track, and I think there is going to be a lot of good come out of this, and I think that what we are doing here today is a part of that.

Thank you very much.
Chairman LIEBERMAN. Thank you, Senator Thompson.

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