Homeland Security

A service in need

With the Pentagon feeling the pinch of sequestration, politicians on both sides of the aisle face legions of lobbyists seeking to have the cuts undone. Many high ranking civilian and military officials have rallied to defend their preferred service or program, claiming that keeping the cuts in place will ‘hollow out’ our armed forces. The Pentagon and its boosters know how to play Washington, but one key military service has been left out in the cold—the Coast Guard.

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End indefinite detention now

The recent Senate hearing on closing Guantanamo, under the leadership of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), shed much needed light on the symbol of injustice and cruelty this prison has become.

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A fresh start on Guantanamo

The Senate will take a fresh look at the national security, financial and human rights costs of Guantanamo tomorrow at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

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Fund JLENS, not the sequestration beast

On October 12, 2000, al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in an Osama bin Laden-inspired plot.  It was a deadly lesson in the importance of providing commanders with the intelligence and equipment necessary to safeguard their forces.  As the folly of sequestration is proving, the national security of our nation is a casualty to the ongoing budget wars in Washington.  While the immediate impact of sequestration has proven to be muted, the real danger lies in its potential to increase the United States' vulnerability to attack.  Despite the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars, critical programs in development are being frozen in place or defunded at key milestones.  All of this is being done with no prioritization based on our future operational requirements. 

This is no way to defend a nation.

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Threats and opportunities in nuclear security spending

Soon after he came into office, President Obama pledged to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. The President made great strides toward accomplishing this important goal, but his recently proposed cuts to nuclear security programs could jeopardize ongoing work to prevent nuclear terrorism. In its budget request for fiscal year 2014, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) cut $76.5 million for its program to secure nuclear materials, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). This represents more than a 15 percent reduction from GTRI’s pre-sequester annual budget.

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Blurring boundaries on national security: the government and private industry

As if out of a Hollywood movie, Edward Snowden emerged from hiding when he flew on commercial air from Hong Kong to Moscow in recent days, where he is now hunkered down in an airport transit zone and appears to be in legal limbo, having applied and withdrawn his request for political asylum from Russia. Snowden, the former NSA contractor reported to have leaked top secret material to the press detailing the government’s collection of “metadata” on Americans last month, is now officially on the run from U.S. authorities, since the U.S. filed criminal charges against him and requested his extradition, first from the Hong Kong government and now from Russia.

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Commit to ballistic missile defense

Without a clear plan for credible, effective, and affordable ballistic missile defense (BMD), the security of millions of Americans, our troops abroad and our allies is at risk.  The threats are clear and present.  Unfriendly nations like Iran continue to modernize their missile forces; North Korea already has the capability of reaching targets on the West Coast.  A simple freighter off our shores with a cheap missile and a low-yield nuclear warhead could create an electromagnetic pulse that would damage and destroy much of our electronic infrastructure, wreaking havoc in a society so highly dependent on technology.  To protect ourselves, the U.S. should commit to BMD and focus on providing a layered system of homeland defense which is flexible and which deploys proven technologies.

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Rule of law and a quick Senate confirmation: An important vote for the Pentagon’s top attorney

Last week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate individuals to several key administration posts. With the recent trend of Congress stalling nearly every Presidential appointment, it appears that there is little chance that President Obama will get all of his picks confirmed. Yet, one nominee -- Attorney Stephen Preston -- should be confirmed immediately, because it is a matter of pressing national security.

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Towards 21st century security and harmony

Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate last week, fifty years after President Kennedy gave his famous address, President Obama called for a new effort to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons. But before he uttered one word, knee-jerk criticisms issued from Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, referred to the anticipated event as “sort of tone deaf.”
 
In fact, it is Graham and many of the other instant critics of the speech who are tone deaf. Loud calls for keeping a massive, expensive nuclear arsenal, twenty years after the Cold War has ended, are just out of touch with the 21st century.

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The opportunities offered by the Snowden case

As the initial furor over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of NSA’s surveillance programs dies down and as both Congress and the administration continue their reviews and assessments of the impacts and implications, the opportunity has emerged to examine a number of important issues beyond the pros and cons of the surveillance program itself.

First and foremost, this is an important opportunity to take a close look at the efficiency and effectiveness of the current security clearance process. Over the last decade, there have been numerous policy and legislative efforts to enhance the process. This is the right time to see if those enhancements have actually worked as designed. Does the system effectively use all of the available tools? Or is it still too dependent on traditional investigative modes, such as personal interviews, when various online resources might actually provide better and more accurate information? Are the periodic reviews to update individual clearances conducted in a timely manner? What are the ramifications of the recent announcement at the Defense Department that, due to budget constraints, they are ceasing such re-investigations for duration of the fiscal year? And how much progress have we made in aligning agency-unique clearance requirements so that, to the maximum extent practical, a top secret clearance at one agency is accepted at others?

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