Homeland Security

Ten years after 9/11, let's honor the memory of first responders


As commander of Joint Task Force Katrina after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, I saw firsthand the dangerous and life-threatening problems that resulted simply because our emergency first responders could not communicate with each other quickly and reliably from the moment the hurricane struck.  Sadly - and even though Katrina hit four years after the horror of the September 11 terror attacks - lives were once again lost because of this inability to communicate.  And ten years after that tragic day in 2001, first responders still don’t have the tools they need to communicate effectively in real time during a disaster.

Ever since my service with Joint Task Force Katrina, I’ve focused on improving disaster preparedness at every level, including finding solutions to communications issues facing first responders across the nation, and reviewing various proposals designed to address public safety’s existing communications needs.  Hurricane Irene recently demonstrated vastly improved cooperation between government agencies; however, the challenge of real time communication among first responders and others increased the risks of tragedy.

On the tenth anniversary of the horror of 9/11, I am more frustrated than ever with the continuing delays in funding and deploying a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network.  First responders urgently need that network to carry out their mission, not only during major disasters and emergencies but in their everyday work keeping all of us safe.  Such a network would have eliminated many of the challenges first responders and disaster managers faced last month during Irene.


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A pathway forward, or a slippery slope?

The Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform coalition is conflicted over the Administration’s DHS announcement of August 18 regarding prosecutorial discretion in the handling of deportation cases.

Our coalition stands  for conservative family values, and a crisis exists in our churches, communities, and workplaces over the splitting up of good and hard working families that are caught up in the immigration system. This new announcement signals a new direction that DHS will be entirely focused on deporting criminals and hard core immigration offenders. We applaud this new effort to keep decent families intact that have otherwise been law abiding.

On the other hand, this unilateral action on the part of the Administration bends the rules to the breaking point--they have performed an end-run around Congress, which has unfortunately been unable to find a way to pass much needed immigration reform. Ultimately, we are a nation of laws. The immigration laws in our nation are antiquated and untenable, so the Administration’s action can be justified partially, but it doesn’t sit well. Our laws might not be working well, but they do exist. The law needs to be changed, not further obstructed. We must find a way to come together to change the laws to improve them and make them work for America.

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9/11:Progress,but more to do


There is no doubt that the events of September 11, 2001 brought about fundamental changes to this nation.  The events of that Tuesday morning changed just about everything we know about aviation security, information sharing, civil liberties, war, and disaster response and recovery. 

As our government has changed its policies and practices over time, the American people have also changed their expectations.  Today, most people regard many new security measures as a reasonable price for security.  But as we enter the second post-9/11 decade, we must begin to question the price we pay.  

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Nuclear lessons from 9/11

Ten years ago the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania prompted a sweeping reappraisal of security at U.S. nuclear energy facilities, led by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. America is fortunate that it has a strong, established regulator for nuclear safety and security.
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a staff of 4,000 competent and committed staff that oversees every facet of the commercial nuclear energy industry.  It has unfettered access to every worker, to every piece of operating data, and to every plant system at every nuclear energy facility—without notice.  Its success in regulating safety and security is the reason why it often is emulated by other regulators.
 
The September 11 attacks were an unprecedented act of violence on America’s critical infrastructure.   It demanded aggressive action to ensure that the nuclear energy facilities that are the source of 20 percent of our nation’s electricity were secure.  Fortunately, the NRC has unique statutory authority to regulate security.  As a result, the nuclear energy industry is one of a few commercial or industrial sectors that is subject to federal security requirements.  Although strong security programs were in place at commercial nuclear energy facilities before 2001, the NRC imposed a series of requirements that substantially strengthened physical and cyber security in the aftermath of the attacks. 

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The illusion of safety

Recent incidents of violence in Norway and London have made us understandably uncomfortable here at home, as many fear that a worsening economy will lead to violence and unrest in American cities. This is why Congress must view the economy as its first priority and a matter of national security: unless and until we get our fiscal house in order to foster economic growth, civil society will continue to deteriorate.

The fundamental lesson every American should learn from these incidents is that government cannot protect us. No matter how many laws we pass, no matter how many police or federal agents we put on the streets, a determined individual or group can still cause great harm. Both Norway and England have strict gun control laws, and London in particular has security cameras monitoring nearly all public areas. But laws and spy cameras are useless in the face of lawless mobs or sick mass killers. Only private individuals on the scene could have prevented or lessened these tragedies. And we should remember that theft, arson, and property damage were not the only criminal acts in London--innocent bystanders were assaulted and killed as well. In those instances deadly force used in self-defense would have been fully justified.

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An Arms Trade Treaty makes sense for US interests

Events of the last month have raised new questions about U.S. national and economic security. The debt ceiling crisis, credit rating downgrade, stock market instability in New York (and around the globe), as well as the downing of a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan and anticipated but undefined defense budget cuts have all contributed to a sense of fiscal and security unease.

What is not in question, however, is that a strong Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) makes national security sense, and that it makes financial sense for those invested in the responsible arms trade.

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The future has arrived

In the Cold War years following World War II, the United States established the strategic goal of combat air superiority. It was achieved through the design and production of advanced aircraft and, equally important, advanced armaments.
 
This air superiority was established beginning with the introduction of the Sidewinder missile in the 1950s and followed by the radar guided Sparrow and the AIM-120, the best anti-aircraft missile to date. The AIM-120 is a ‘fire and forget’ radar-guided, all-weather missile worthy of its nickname, “Slammer.” Deployed on F-15 fighter jets, these missile systems amassed an astonishing combat kill ratio of more than 100-to-zero.

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Looking for defense cuts? Go nuclear

As the dust settles on the just-passed budget deal, one thing is becoming clear: there is now high-level bipartisan agreement that the U.S. defense budget will be reduced in a major way, anywhere from $350 to $850 billion over the next decade, according to the White House. And despite defense hawk grumblings, reductions of this magnitude can actually make America safer by forcing leaders to cancel low-priority programs and focus on the ones that really matter. It’s time to get serious about our top security priorities and cut the dead wood.

For example, can the Nation really afford to spend more than $200 billion over the next ten years to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal? Republican senators demanded, and won, a promise from the Obama administration to do just that when the New START treaty was approved last year. But that was then. Can all of this funding be justified in the post-budget-deal era? No, it can’t.

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Obama administration’s attempt to implement a backdoor amnesty must be stopped

Grace Meng gets it wrong in her recent op-ed, “Put a stop to the HALT Act.” What really needs to be stopped is the Obama administration’s attempt to implement a backdoor amnesty.

Although Congress has defeated amnesty for illegal immigrants several times in recent years, this has not stopped President Obama and his administration from abusing executive branch authority to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.

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Keep Our Communities Safe Act prevents tragedies

Laura Murphy’s recent op-ed, “Proposed immigration detention bill must never become law,” is misleading. The Keep Our Communities Safe Act is needed to keep dangerous criminal immigrants off of our streets.

Because of two recent Supreme Court rulings, federal officials have been forced to release into our neighborhoods thousands of criminal immigrants who cannot be deported. These criminal immigrants include rapists, child molesters, and murderers. 

In two tragic instances, criminal immigrants released because of the Supreme Court rulings have gone on to commit murder. Huang Chen was ordered removed for assaulting Qian Wu. China refused to grant Huang the necessary documents and he was released as a result of Zadvydas. He then committed another assault and was again ordered removed, but again China refused to issue travel documents. Huang was again released. He went on to violently murder Mr. Wu. 

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