Between 2004 and 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has spent nearly $300 billion to secure our nation. Several initiatives have improved our security and eliminated many vulnerabilities we once faced. Increases in the number of Border Patrol officers, the establishment of Secure Flight and US VISIT, the revitalization of FEMA and the new attention to securing chemical and biological materials have all improved our security.
All of these have been good and necessary, but as we reflect on the past ten years, we cannot pretend that progress has been steady and unimpeded.
Many have pointed to the growth in homeland security spending and the reliance on outside contractors as the beginning of a homeland security industrial complex which may undermine our security in the long run. Although there is not one cause for this incredible increase in spending, we cannot deny that Congress’ inability to consolidate jurisdiction is a contributing factor.
The splintering of jurisdiction has fractured every aspect of the Department’s operations and decreased its ability to operate effectively and efficiently. The inability of Congress to provide the Department with one strong and steady hand has created opportunities for the network of companies and consultants who many call the Beltway bandits.
We need the Speaker and Congressional leadership to assure that these jurisdictional hurdles are overcome as recommended by the 9/11 Commission. The Committee the Chairman and I run should obtain strict legislative and oversight jurisdiction of the Department.
Measuring the past ten years since 9/11 shows our progress has been mixed. We have made many strides but still have far to go. As the Democratic leader of the Committee on Homeland Security for the past seven years, I will continue to work for the safety, security and resiliency of our nation against terrorism.
Thompson is the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security