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Hearing of House Committee on the Budget House of Representatives - National and Homeland Security: Meeting Our Needs

Location: Washington, DC


FEBRUARY 16, 2005


Mr. Garrett. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, you started out by saying that normally we get a lot of happy talk. I would say that we have gotten no happy talk today, quite the opposite, just a lot of ominous and dire predictions for the future that maybe perhaps puts a lot of our other discussions that we have here on other spending programs--and when people say, gee, you can't cut my little program and my pet project in my district for this or that, maybe it puts all these other things into perspective.

I just have a couple of questions I would like to run through.

Mr. Gaffney, you made a point of saying this at one point, maybe you can just clarify it in a sentence or two, when you said that our country is one of the few nuclear powers that is not able to produce nuclear weapons. You made a point on that.

Mr. Gaffney. I think it is the only one at this point.

It is true that if you go out to one of the nuclear laboratories and ask them to hand-build you one, that we have some vestigial capability to do that--Randy may be doubling that capability if you give him the nuclear materials that he says he could use to put one together. But in terms of a production capability, we have none, and as far as I know, we are the only nuclear power that is true of.

Mr. Spratt. If the gentleman would yield just a second.

Now you have talked about building TA-55 at Los Alamos, warheads, which is--excuse me, I am sorry, I just wanted to make the point--building TA-55 at Los Alamos has a through-pick capacity of about 55 warheads a year. And while that may be on the low end of what might be needed, with a second shift it would probably be augmented, and that is a production capability.

Mr. Gaffney. Yeah. To my knowledge it is not a live, hot production capability.

Mr. Spratt. Oh, it is active today. They have got a full shift, they are working warheads, refurbishing warheads.

Mr. Gaffney. Refurbishing warheads, as you know, is different than building new nuclear devices. And this is a point I guess I would just come back to you, if I may, on your time, sir.

You know, this idea that we can just sort of muddle through, my colleague has suggested rebuilding things to existing specifications, that is illegal. It is illegal----

Mr. Spratt. But look, Frank, let me say this; it is not billions of dollars expense so we can better understand nuclear explosions----

Mr. Gaffney. It is faith-based nuclear deterrence, it is not science-based.

Mr. Spratt. Thank you for letting me interrupt.

Mr. Garrett. No, I appreciate the question, and the clarification as well.

I would like to go back--changing that topic--to the homeland security issue, as all of us do represent various unique States. I come from the State of New Jersey, which is unique from a risk-based assessment. We have, you know, two major ports, a couple of international airports, petroleum processing plants, petroleum storage plants, chemical processing plants, I mean--Amtrak and transit throughout that area. Much of the east coast would be closed down as far as resources, as far as fuel is concerned if we had a major attack in our State, and whereas the rest of the country is not elevated, New Jersey was recently elevated in level.

And from the practical political sense, when we go back to our States, such as ours, the question always is, is there something that we should be doing down here as members as far as changing the entire risk-based assessment of how we handle the funding that we get? The chairman very nicely equated it to getting a new fire truck, or in some cases just buying new hoses in the fire departments. Are we going just down the totally wrong road as far as what we have done so far as risk-based assessment or lack of risk-based assessment in spending our dollars?

Mr. Carafano. Yes, we are. And first of all, I would like to vehemently disagree with Mike that I do not think we should be spending $5 billion more on homeland security because I think right now we are already throwing money at the problem, and just adding it doesn't really solve anything.

But we made a fundamental mistake after 9/11, which is that we assumed that the purpose of Federal dollars that would flow to State and local governments were for capacity building, and we had to increase for capacity to help respond to terrorist attacks, and that was an enormously bad strategic choice because we can, quite honestly, pour money into that forever. And I worked on the Council on Foreign Relations Analysis, and we came up with $100 billion in unmet requirements, and that was just in preparedness, it did not even include police departments. So it is a bottomless pit. So it was a fundamentally flawed strategic approach.

We should really go back and start over, and we should start with a fundamental premise: Federal dollars should be spent to make all Americans safer; not some, not in New Jersey, not in California, but all Americans.

So what does that mean? I think it really means two things. One is the Federal dollars should be there to help build a national system that everybody can plug into, private sector, State and local, so when we have to respond, we can make the best and most sufficient use of all the resources that we have throughout the Nation as one brotherhood.

The second issue is catastrophic terrorism. Catastrophic terrorism will achieve the capacity of any State and local government to respond. So we do need to have, again, a national system that if we can't prevent a catastrophic terrorist attack, that the Nation as a whole can respond efficiently and effectively to catastrophic terrorism. I think that that really throws out the whole notion of a risk- and vulnerability-based system and moves to a system which is basically based on meeting national strategic needs as opposed to meeting State and local needs.

Colonel Larsen. I really agree with that assessment. We will go bankrupt trying to do that. You know, if we buy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, it makes every American safer in terms of national security, but when we buy a new fire truck for a small town in New Jersey, it doesn't do anything for the people in Dallas or anywhere else. So I think we have to go forward with that perspective.

The regional approaches though, however, I do support, exercises and equipment, that when we fund exercises at the Federal level, is that it shouldn't be for a certain State or district, it should be for the regions to work together. I think Mayor Garza in San Antonio has done some great work on this; he said, I don't need every fire department to have every piece of equipment I would ever want, but I need to know within a 200-mile radius where that equipment is, and if I could get it in a crisis. And so I think that is a much better approach.

Mr. O'Hanlon. Congressman, I would just simply add that on this point I agree with my colleagues, that the added expenditures I think we need in homeland security are not for first responders; in fact, I strongly disagree with the Council on Foreign Relation's report that proposes $20 billion a year more for that area. I think the areas we need more capability are things like inspections for containers coming into this country, expediting our linking of databases, and use of biometric indicators on various kinds of identification, thinking about how to better protect airplane cargo holds against explosives.

There are a number of areas that still require additional resources, but I would simply add and agree that this is not generally a problem where you throw money at the first responder community. That is not a very useful way to spend homeland security money.

Colonel Larsen. If I could make one more comment. At the Federal level we have got to stop wasting money. TSA----

Mr. Garrett. Let me write that down----

Colonel Larsen. TSA has a new program, and I don't like the way they are spending my taxpayers' money. Now right after 9/11--in the Patriot Act it said let's fingerprint all those truck drivers out there--I mean, let's check the names of all the truck drivers who carry hazardous cargo. Well, that made sense right after 9/11 because we knew there were some al Qaeda people that went through big truck driver schools. They did not find many people, but it was a reasonable response at that tactical quick level.

Now there is a new program that is not directed by the U.S. Congress, it came up with the TSA. They want to fingerprint all the people who have that little permit to carry hazardous cargo in the United States to see if we get fingerprints and they are bad people. There are 2.7 million people that have that particular license to carry hazardous cargo; TSA estimates it is going to be $100 apiece. That is $270 million we are going to have on this fingerprint program.

Now, let me explain to you what hazardous includes: fingernail polish remover, paint, Coke syrup, and Listerine. Now, is that the best way to be spending $270 million for homeland security?

Mr. Gaffney. Congressman, I guess I just would add one point, which may seem off the subject since you are talking about the Federal budget here, but the one thing that strikes me as going woefully unaddressed is what can we do to enlist the American people in a greater level of preparedness, and awareness even, of the kinds of threats that we may be facing at the homeland security level.

You know, we have had some fits and starts in this area, notably the whole idea of having people provide tips as to things that they see that are out of place or suspicious or worrisome in their communities. But I have sensed, and I suspect each of you have as you go around your constituencies, there is a yearning on the part of the public to feel as though they have got a role to play, and I think in the area of emergency preparedness, particularly of the kind of larger catastrophic kind, having the public engaged in understanding what their communities are going to have to do--you know, this 24, this television show that is running now, broadcasting about meltdowns in nuclear plants around the country, well, there is some plan that is trotted out to go get people out of the communities affected. I suggest to you that most of the people in this country have not a clue what that plan would be if it were to be implemented today. That is a place where I think for probably negligible funding something could be done that could actually make a material difference in how we will respond if, God forbid, one of these unhappy bits of news happens.

Mr. Garrett. Thank you.


Mr. Garrett. Thank you. Maybe I will just use the prerogative of the Chair, then, to throw out one final question for the day, and that is since we are sitting on the Budget Committee--and it goes to issues you have raised on that point on the past, what we are looking at in the future in the budget that we will be considering for the 2006 operating year as far as the Pentagon is concerned on so many of the programs that you have talked about. My understanding is really began back in 2004 when someone put pen to paper and said this is what we think we need as far as our needs at this point in time, it only gets through the process to where we are today, 2 years later.

So going to the overall perspective, as far as reforming our budgetary process, reforming the procurement process within the Pentagon, how do you address those issues relative to the point that Frank raised just right now as well?

Mr. Gaffney. Well, I guess this falls to me to explain myself. Look, you are absolutely right. There are long lead times. This quadrennial defense review, for example, is now in full gear, but it has been in preparation since the last one stopped. Your processes here, you know, are increasingly ponderous and have to look out multiple years, not just the one immediately at hand.

I don't think there is any easy answer to this, except to say that we have just got to hope that people who we elect are available to look over the horizon and anticipate some of the problems that are clearly coming, even though perhaps some of our leaders don't want to talk about them at the moment, or even though it is impolitic to worry about them because they are friends of ours in the war on terror, or for some other reason.

But I really think that you are onto something in that thinking these things through in a multiyear time frame, something I think Jim especially was talking about, the long-term budget implications of some of our decisions, is critical if we are going to maintain the defense we need and avoid getting into the kind of death spiral that we have been in the past with these things that have the gotten wildly out of sync, the threat on the one hand and our budget assignments on the other.

Colonel Larsen. If I could comment on homeland security on that. At least we had the mechanism within DOD, we have had for a long time, for us to build the 5-year plan, the budget what we are going to do. Nothing like that exists for securing our American homeland, nothing. So how can we have a strategic perspective? As was noted here in the opening remarks, only about 50 percent of the funding for homeland security even goes to DHS. So who is in charge of protecting this Nation against a biological attack, which I think most of us here on this panel agree is a rather likely thing in the next 5, 10 years? Who is in charge? No one. Who is building the plan? No one.

Mr. Carafano. I will just throw out an idea that we have thrown out before, which is totally heretical, which is perhaps the notion of going to a biennial budget cycle and alternating the homeland security budget and defense budget so we go to a 2-year cycle rather than a 1-year cycle, take a little more thoughtful look at these issues, spend a little more time on oversight, and consider them in alternate years rather than trying to have the Congress eat both of them every year.

Mr. O'Hanlon. I will just add one word, which is whether this idea flies or the not, I definitely like Jay's earlier idea of a quadrennial review for the Department of Homeland Security and all players involved in the homeland security mission. I think those reviews really have been very useful in the defense community, and we have been doing them now for quite a while. They get a little bit old in some ways, but they are always useful, and I think the DHS mission definitely needs them now.

Mr. Garrett. Well, gentlemen, I certainly appreciate you coming, your time and your testimony. I think someone said in their opening remarks that what we deal with, however, as far as the defense of this Nation and the security of the people, the American people, is first and foremost the responsibility of this Congress and this administration, and it makes everything else we do pale in comparison.

I agree with what Members have already said, that we look forward when we have someone from the administration to be able to come, and certainly for myself at least have highlighted some questions that we will be able to bring before the administration. So I thank you for that.

I also would want to say, I ask unanimous consent that Members be allowed 7 days to submit statements or questions for the record.

Mr. Garrett. Without objection, we are adjourned.


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