The 9/11 Commission's Recommendations: Concrete Change

Five years ago, our country suffered a tremendous loss. We promised the families affected by 9/11 that we would do everything in our power to protect the American people and fight terrorism. Two and a half years ago, the 9/11 Commission took giant steps to do just that.

As our first bill in the 110th Congress, House Democrats will honor their work by passing legislation reflecting their recommendations. I was joined yesterday by 9/11 Commissioners Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer, both of whom our nation owes a debt of gratitude for their service. Mr. Hamilton started by saying: "I'll begin with the bottom line -- is that if this bill, H.R. 1, is enacted, funded and implemented, then the American people will be safer."

And here, just a few legislative hours into the 110th Congress, we are taking steps to do just that.

In this comprehensive legislation, Democrats will enact dramatic improvements in the allocation of Homeland Security grants based on risk; in the focus of our federal government on emergency communications for first responders; in the effectiveness of our unified communications systems in emergencies; in aviation security; in fully scanning cargo containers; in stemming terrorist travel; in information sharing with first responders and local law enforcement; in the quality of our infrastructure security and the databases that monitor them; in the common planning of all transportation shareholders; in private sector preparedness; in non-proliferation efforts against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; and in diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of terrorism.

This bill, drafted by Chairman Bennie Thompson of the Homeland Security Commitee, Chairman Tom Lantos of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Chairman Ike Skelton of the Armed Services Committee, will show just how loyal to the spirit and letter of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations House Democrats are. Indeed, Mr. Roemer, speaking on the elements of this legislation dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction said, "I think what this H.R. 1 bill does, it not only implements fully the 9/11 Commission recommendations; it goes further than what the 9/11 Commission recommended. And in my opinion, you cannot go far enough to try to keep these fissile materials out of the hands of terrorists."

He also pointed to an area of the Commission's recommendations that was considered dead on arrival in the last Congress but is a priority of this Democratic Congress. "Congressional reform is sometimes the very toughest to succeed in. However, it is the most important. Congress can't point their fingers at FBI reform and CIA reform without cleaning up their own backyard. And in this bill, they do."

Democrats have shown that a strong defense is built on concrete changes to secure our vulnerabilities, not on rhetoric.

The first 100 hours is not the end of our efforts to secure our country; it is only the beginning. House Democrats look forward to a new era where both parties can put our national defense above partisanship to craft real solutions. The American people deserve nothing less.