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The 30-Something Working Group: Democratic Proposals

Location: Washington, DC

THE 30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP: DEMOCRATIC PROPOSALS -- (House of Representatives - September 20, 2006)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. But we digress.

It is a pleasure to be here with you. I am happy to yield my usual spot so you can utilize the benefit of the chair.

I want to pick up on some of what Mr. Meek has been talking about this evening, because for the last 2 weeks or so we have been subjected as Americans to the onslaught of dialogue on the Republican side of the aisle in terms of their view of national security and how it is only through their continued leadership and their continued driving of the agenda and continuing in the direction that they have taken America that we will be able to remain safe.

Yet I find it really interesting, and I have an illustrative chart here that I would like to walk through quickly, that there are people, very prominent people, people who have the expertise, that know that nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, last Monday, which was the anniversary of September 11, former Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey and former Member of Congress Lee Hamilton, Republican and Democrat, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, issued a blistering analysis that was published in papers across the country, but particularly in the Boston Globe, which is your home paper, Mr. Delahunt, that they reiterated that the report card that the 9/11 Commission had given the Congress in December included 10 Cs, 12 Ds and 4 Fs. That was a clarion call last December to the Congress and this Republican leadership.

They were saying look, you are not moving in the right direction. You have an opportunity to change course. You have an opportunity to make a commitment to homeland security and to shoring up our national security; do it. We are the ones that reviewed the gaps, and we recommended to you how we could close those gaps and you have not done it.

Here is what they said last Monday. They said, ``What we argued then is still true now. Americans are safer, but we are not yet safe.'' Then they walked through what still needed to be done. This chart is illustrative of what they talked about in this editorial.

First, they said homeland security dollars must be allocated wisely. They indicated that right now we are not allocating funding on the basis of risks and vulnerabilities. The Republican leadership is actually doing it on an earmark basis. They are giving out little pots of money around the country to make individual Members happy so they can say I brought home some security dollars for my district instead of concentrating on the areas where the real risks and vulnerabilities are.

They went on further and said States and localities need to have emergency response plans and practice them regularly. The problem is, there isn't a creation of State and local response plans going on, and from the moment disaster strikes, all first responders need to know what to do and who is in charge, and that is not happening.

Third, they called on Congress to give first responders a slice of the broadcast spectrum that is ideal for emergency communications. Right now, as you can see, that is not going to happen until 2009. Do you remember the intraoperability and communication that was talked about as the problem that occurred on 9/11 when the firefighters and the police officers and all of the first responders and then the Intelligence Community, FBI and all of the law enforcement agencies, couldn't talk to each other because their systems don't communicate with each other. That still hasn't been fixed, and one of the problems is that the broadcast spectrum is not going to be turned over until 2009.

Number four, there has not been enough progress on information sharing among government agencies. There are still turf fights and gaps in information sharing, especially with State and local authorities. We have to shut off the turf battles, increase information sharing among government agencies, and make sure that these entities can talk to each other.

This can't be about turf anymore. This has to be about making sure that there is a seamless system, that there is a system through which information can flow so that when there is danger that is either imminent or is occurring, there can be the communication that was so absent on 9/11.

Fifth, FBI reform is moving in the right direction, but far too slowly. They said you need to speed up FBI reform, improve FBI technology and analytical capabilities, and lower the workforce turnover. Those things still have not occurred 5 years later.

Six, we have taken a special interest in the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board which we recommended and the Congress and created, but we have to protect privacy and civil liberties and make sure that they function with oversight with the executive branch.

Clearly, Mr. Delahunt and I know better than anybody after our Judiciary meeting today, there isn't any interest in oversight in terms of the Republican leadership in this Congress. They have essentially been willing to cede our legislative authority to the executive branch. It is shocking. I don't know whether they just didn't take the same civics classes as we did or whether they are just so trusting of this Presidency.

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