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Federal News Service - Panel I of a Hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee - Transcript

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Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service

HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE,

SUBJECT: AVIATION SECURITY RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT

CHAIRED BY: JOHN L. MICA (R-FL)

WITNESSES: JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSIONER, 9/11 COMMISSION; DAVID M. STONE, ADMINISTRATOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

LOCATION: 2167 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. JOHN DUNCAN, JR. (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for calling this very important hearing.

And I'm glad you pointed out how many things you've done and this subcommittee under your leadership has done, the meetings, the hearings, all the many billions that are being spent by our federal government, not to even mention all the things that the state governments are doing, the local governments are doing. And we often don't think about what the private companies are doing, but just one company, FedEx, told me a few months ago they had spent $200 million on extra security matters since 9/11. And so I hope the public recognizes that this nation is doing more in regard to aviation security than probably any other nation in the entire world, and the changes have been dramatic since 9/11.

And because of all this, I was very interested to read in the testimony of our friend Captain Duane Woerth, he says at one point, "Nor can we afford to throw billions of dollars at every conceivable threat, because we run the risk of creating an escalation factor that works decidedly in our enemy's favor. If terrorists know that by spending a few thousand dollars, we will spend 10,000 or 100,000 times more in order to counter every specific threat, they can easily bankrupt this country."

And I think that's something that we need to keep in mind. We need some balance and common sense in regard to these issues we're dealing with. Former Governor Gilmore, who chaired the commission on the threat of terrorism, in his letter to the president at the conclusion of that work said this. He said, quote: "There will never be a 100 percent guarantee of security for our people, the economy and ours society. We must resist the urge to seek total security. It is not achievable and drains our attention from those things that can be accomplished."

And so what I would say today is let's keep in mind, number one, how much we've already done; and number two, let's try to achieve some-use some balance and common sense in regard to these issues and not panic every time some instant pops up and overreact and thus give victories to the terrorists.

Now, there are some things that we should be doing. Referring back to Captain Woerth's testimony again, he gets into this flight from Detroit to Los Angeles that I heard about a few weeks ago, in which these 14 Syrian men acted very strangely, and we've had these incidents of people trying to scare passengers or trying to test the system in some way, and little or nothing has been done to these people. And we need to take very strong action when things like this are done.

But we also-I read the testimony of William E. Odom given before the Intelligence Committee on August 4th, and Mr. Odom was, of course, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan administration. And he said this, he said: "Perhaps we have the problem we are trying to fix backwards. Both 9/11 and the judgments about Iraq were primarily policy failures. The 9/11 commission and the Congress risk misleading the public if they convey the impression that inadequate intelligence was the fundamental or only problem leading to al Qaeda's successful attacks on 9/11 and the decision to invade Iraq."

We have some problems we need to work on. It's been a little bit humorous, but mostly sad, that I've read so many articles over the last few months, and every time I read one of those articles, there's a different number in there as to how many intelligence agencies we have in this country. I've read everywhere from 9 to 17. If we can't even figure out how many intelligence agencies we have, or we get different numbers from people who should know, then we certainly need to be doing better.

So there's many things we can do. I think we need to recognize that we're spending more on intelligence than all the other nations of the world combined, and yet there's some flaws there, and it seems that every time there's a mix-up or a failure by a government agency, the first thing they say is that they're under funded. The INS after 9/11 said they were under funded, and we found-and it was on "60 Minutes"-that they had received a 250 percent increase over the previous eight years, 10 times the rate of inflation.

So we need to make sure that we're spending all these billions and billions and billions more wisely. This is not a money problem; it's a thing that we need to all work on together and make sure we're getting the most bang for our buck, and hopefully at least make a few improvements.

But I applaud you, Mr. Chairman, for all that we've already done, and I look forward to working with you in the months ahead to try to make it even better.

Thank you very much.

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