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Issue Position: Homeland Security and Disaster Preparedness

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The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, killed 2,973 people. This was the deadliest hostile attack on U.S. soil in history. Approximately four years later, Hurricane Katrina killed 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Unlike the September 11 attacks, however, Hurricane Katrina was "a disaster that had been anticipated for years, and for which specific dire warnings had been issued for days." While President George W. Bush has repeatedly told us that his number one priority is keeping the American people safe, the congressional committee that investigated the response to Hurricane Katrina found that "four and a half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time."

The reason for this lack of preparedness is straightforward: the Bush Administration has made offensive military operations, "fighting the terrorists over there instead of over here", the focus of the war on terror instead of putting an equal emphasis on investments at home to protect the American people. As one commentator has noted, we are spending every six weeks in Iraq more than we spend annually on homeland security. We could provide security upgrades for all subways and commuter rails for what we spend every 20 days in Iraq, security upgrades for 361 ports for four days in Iraq, and explosive screening for all U.S. passenger airliners for ten days in Iraq.

Moreover, even if offensive military operations alone were sufficient to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, and they are not, such operations do nothing to protect the American people from natural disasters, such as hurricanes or flu pandemics. Therefore, in order to protect the American people from both man-made and natural disasters, we must make investments in America's infrastructure and pursue policies at home that will keep the American people safe.

Programs and funding to achieve real security for the American people should include the following:

1.Fully Adopt 9/11 Commission's Recommendations.

2. Fully Fund Our Brave Emergency Responders.

3. Improve Port Security.

4. Improve Aviation Security.

5. Improve Rail Security.

6. Protect Chemical Facilities

7. Improve Disaster Preparedness.

8. Prepare for Avian Flu.

9. Protect Civil Liberties.


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