FixGovDHS twenty years after 9/11: Looking back and looking aheadJoseph I. LiebermanWednesday, September 8, 2021
Twenty years after the terrorist assaults on September 11, 2001, the establishment of the room of Homeland security (DHS) watch like one of the most important and effective government responses come the traumatic events of that day. While DHS has confronted its re-publishing of difficulties over the previous two decades, the United says is much an ext secure today because it is there. We have not had another terrorist assault on ours homeland as large and deadly as 9/11, and most smaller attempts have been stopped.

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As protection threats to our country have evolved, DHS has ongoing to adapt. Because that example, in current years it has increased its focus on cyber threats and also domestic terrorism. Yet DHS can not diminish its original reason for being—defending ours homeland against foreign terrorist threats, especially in irradiate of the current U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the likelihood the will boost the possibility of terrorist strikes on the united States.

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Joseph I. Lieberman

Former United claims Senator (I-CT)

Senior Counsel - Kasowitz, Benson, Torres LLP


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The Homeland protection Act that created DHS to be signed into law in November 2002 by chairman Bush, adhering to a year the spirited debate and also dialogue within Congress and also with the shrub Administration. It was an honor to work closely on this through my Republican partner Fred Thompson and also Susan Collins. While initiatives to develop and pass the legislation were periodically contentious, us were at some point able to build a cool bipartisan compromise, undoubtedly facilitated by our mutual concerns around the danger of added terrorist attacks on the homeland. Us came with each other to develop the Department, merging 22 present agencies and also sub-agencies from throughout the commonwealth government and also establishing brand-new offices in DHS for intelligence coordination and also investments in science and also technology.

The brand-new department was given responsibility not simply for counterterrorism but for a wider set of related homeland defense missions, consisting of border security, transportation security, catastrophe response, and an important infrastructure protection.

As we worked on this legislation, we had actually no illusions around the obstacles that DHS would face. It to be the an outcome of a facility merger. However given the threats encountering the nation, we felt the reform to be necessary. As I said throughout the Senate floor controversy on the legislation:

“Building this Department will involve no shortage the problems, as any massive undertaking that this sort would – yet we, after ~ this initial action of creation, should be ready to improve, come support, and ultimately to safeguard the American civilization with this Department. We have no choice.”

DHS has definitely had its troubles over the last 2 decades, some small and others an ext serious, indigenous jokes on so late night television shows around the color-coded risk alert system, come the mismanaged solution to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, come operational difficulties at the southwest border in recent years. That has likewise faced ongoing challenges with employee morale and developing a united organizational culture across its work elements, every of which lugged its separate background to DHS. Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano as soon as said come me the her goal was to have everyone in ~ DHS speak the very same language, even if with different accents. It seems to me that has now happened.

DHS has likewise led many successful efforts that have enhanced our nation’s landscape security. We now have a robust mechanism of screening and vetting at our borders and airports the make it lot more challenging for foreign terrorists and also other illicit actors to take trip to the U.S. And attempt to bring out strikes or connect in criminal activity. We have removed information-sharing obstacles that hindered an essential federal, state and local agencies from sharing information on potential threats. We have actually stronger disaster solution capabilities today, both at a FEMA the was reformed after ~ Hurricane Katrina and in our states and also localities. And also DHS has significantly matured its function in cybersecurity over the previous 15 years, causing bipartisan congressional support for the production of the Cybersecurity and Information Security agency at DHS in 2018.

In looking earlier on this two-decade record, it is for sure clear the it to be the appropriate decision to develop DHS. Some have said for dismantling DHS and also scattering its component agencies back to various other federal departments. That would certainly be a disastrous mistake the would threaten our security once threats to our landscape are farming in lethality and also diversity. If DHS did no exist today, Congress would certainly undoubtedly produce it.

For example, provided the severity and affect of cyber threats, additional investment to expand capabilities at CISA is required – CISA still only accounts because that 2% the the as whole DHS budget. An ext support is likewise needed at DHS to combat residential terrorism threats, offered the January sixth attack on the U.S. Capitol and other lawless activities from the left and right extremes. And also it is most likely that novel threats and risks will emerge in the coming decade, pushed by technical and societal changes, including bioterrorism created by COVID-19. DHS requirements to evolve to respond to them.

But come repeat, DHS cannot lose emphasis on that is founding write-up 9/11 counterterrorism mission. The FBI has the main investigative duty for terrorism, however DHS has important responsibilities for counterterrorism, including traveler screening and vetting, intelligence information-sharing, aviation security, an important infrastructure protection, and also the prevention, security and response to the use of tools of mass damage inside the U.S.

The tap the money of U.S. Military and intelligence assets native Afghanistan increases the prestige of these homeland counterterrorism responsibilities. Together our capabilities to disrupt terrorist activity from Afghanistan to decrease drastically, our defenses at home become much more important to disrupting and also preventing strikes like the destructive ones top top 9/11 that brought about the creation of DHS.

DHS leaders have the right to also help by searching for ways to build bipartisan consensus on the border and immigration mission that the Department.

These are all obstacles that DHS can begin to handle in its Quadrennial Homeland defense Review, i m sorry by law is because of be yielded to congress by the finish of this year. And there have to be energetic Congressional oversight of DHS. Congress still requirements to fix its own broke up jurisdiction end DHS which varieties across more than one hundred committees and subcommittees. Once it pertains to homeland security, Congress has been efficient at reforming everyone other than itself. Seventeen years after the 9/11 Commission approve its report, this is quiet its just unimplemented recommendation.

Finally, it is an important that the management of DHS actively steer far from politics and partisanship, i beg your pardon obviously hurts the Department’s ability to lug out its critical missions. The very first four Secretaries: Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and also Jeh Johnson—two Republicans and also two Democrats—were all very careful to stop partisan activities. But that vital norm eroded during the trump card Administration, fueling a much much more polarized debate on border security, immigration, and also counterterrorism and also delegitimizing organ in DHS such as Immigration and also Customs Enforcement (ICE) amongst the American people. Current and future DHS leaders require to show through their actions the they refuse politicization of homeland security.

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As us commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist assaults of 9/11 and remember those who lost their stays on that tragic day, we must appreciate the big steps that us took together across party present to reform our government and also improve our homeland defenses. And also we must be thankful to the numerous thousands that men and women who have actually served in ~ DHS end the previous two decades with together effectiveness. Over there is no doubt that together a result, the American people have been far better protected at home, and also will, with recurring bipartisan assistance of DHS, continue to be.