Napolitano calls on business to support expanded security-awareness campaign

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday stressed the importance of solidifying a partnership between government intelligence agencies and private-sector business in the U.S.’s struggle to thwart terrorist attacks.

Less than a month before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Napolitano addressed a full room of business owners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s expanding See Something, Say Something awareness campaign, which relies heavily on information-sharing from private citizens and local businesses.

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“My hope and my charge to you today is to help us spread this public awareness message,” Napolitano said. “Quite frankly, we need all hands on deck in this effort.”

Napolitano announced a series of new public service announcements Wednesday that advertise the public-awareness campaign of identifying and telling authorities about suspicious activity. She encouraged the business owners in the audience to share the 30-second video spots with their colleagues, link to them on their company websites and include them in their own marketing campaigns.

“You know, as members of the private sector — and I know, in my role as secretary — how hard it is to get a message across to the general public and get them thinking in that way, right?” she said. “No government department, no matter how large or how well-run, can do it by itself, and the private sector, no matter how large and well-run, [can’t] do it by itself [either]. It has to be a partnership, and the public has to be involved.”

Napolitano emphasized many steps that DHS and agencies under its umbrella have taken in the past 10 years to better safeguard the country from the kind of aerial hijacking assaults that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. She said the U.S. is safer from those type of attacks, but that the country faces a continually evolving new set of challenges, of which the most difficult to counter are attacks from lone-wolf terrorists from within the U.S.

“Our experience over the last 10 years has made us smarter about the evolving threats we face and how best to deal with them,” Napolitano said. “And we’ve done so in the context of making sure that we also protect and preserve our fundamental right as citizens of the United States.

“There are no guarantees in this world and I’m not here to offer guarantees. There are lots of things that are threatened that can happen, but what we can do is maximize our ability to prevent an attack from occurring, minimize the ability of such an attack having a large impact and increase our ability to respond with efficiency and effectiveness.”

Tom Ridge — who served as the first homeland security secretary when the position was created under then-President George W. Bush — commended Napolitano on the efforts the secretariat has made under her leadership, but he expressed his outrage at the country for failing to develop an operable communications system for emergency responders to use.

“We have the capacity, we have the technology,” he said. “What we don’t have is the political courage and the focus of trying to help these men and women who we celebrate with speeches. But if we’re really that concerned, we better get on the fast track."