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Strengthening Domestic Defense

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Strengthening Domestic Defense

"The administration may think domestic defense is about changing the color code from yellow to orange. Let me tell you something: the colors that will make America safer are firefighter red, EMT white, and police officer blue." -- John Edwards

John Edwards has outlined a strategy to strengthen America's defenses against the threat of further terrorist attack. Edwards' strategy focuses on tightening our border security, strengthening security at the likeliest targets of terrorist attacks and improving domestic readiness so we are always prepared to respond to threats. At the same time, Edwards believes that winning the fight against terrorists requires wisdom and moral strength, as well as military might. If we are to succeed in spreading democracy abroad, we must defend the fundamental principles of democracy at home.
Tightening Our Border Security

Our border is the line of first defense against those who would do us harm. Yet five and a half years after 9/11, we still have dangerous vulnerabilities, which run the risk of allowing a terrorist to transport weapons across our border. Edwards believes we should be far more aggressive with border security.

* Borders: Edwards supports substantial increases in the ranks of the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and consular officials to secure our borders.
* Seaports: Over 1 million passengers and pedestrians, 327,000 vehicles, and 70,000 shipping containers come into the United States through ports of entry each day.. Only 80% of the country's ports have the ability to screen for nuclear and radiological materials and weapons. Edwards would require the country's largest ports to screen their cargo containers within three years and that all ports screen within five years. Edwards would empower local authorities by providing them with more timely information about threats. [DHS, 2006]
* Air Cargo: The 23 billion pounds of air cargo that enter the U.S. annually are only partially screened today. Edwards would require 100% screening for explosives in air cargo. [GAO, 2005]

Protecting The Most Vulnerable Targets

Many of our most valuable assets—our chemical plants, skyscrapers, and sports arenas—are also potential targets for terrorists. A successful attack on any of these targets would be devastating, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. Edwards believes we must do far more to protect our most vulnerable targets.

* Chemical Plants: Because of industry pressure, new watered-down security rules imposed by the Bush administration may actually weaken security at many plants. Edwards has supported tough new safety standards at chemical plants vulnerable to terrorist attacks. [USA Today, 2/19/07]
* Skyscrapers and Arenas: Today, many tall buildings and arenas lack state-of-the-art security and blast-resistant materials. Edwards supports research into improved safety standards, building construction, and building security methods. He also supports better training, screening and supervision for the private security industry.
* Cybersecurity: Only a few federal agencies follow best practices for securing their computers against cyber-attack. Edwards will require all federal agencies to adopt these practices.

Improving Domestic Readiness

Homeland security is not just a matter of borders and protecting valuable targets. We must also improve our readiness by working more with the people who serve us and the warning systems that tell us when something had gone wrong. Edwards believes we must dramatically improve our systems for assuring domestic readiness.

* First Responders: Edwards will strengthen the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Fire Fighters Act, which helps local governments meet the growing demands of our emergency preparedness requirements.
* Getting Americans Involved: Edwards will support communities that encourage citizens to serve—e.g., for one weekend each year. He also supports neighborhood watches and other measures that would enable communities to better address homeland security concerns.
* Help for Front Line Officers: Police on the front lines need better warning information, more security clearances, and improved access to newly-combined federal watch lists. Edwards supports steps to ensure that local law enforcement agencies receive the information they need to respond to terrorist threats.
* Improved Emergency Warnings: The color-coded warning system is often more confusing than helpful and does not reach all Americans in the event of a nighttime attack. Edwards would require the provision of better, faster and more practical information using all available technologies, including traditional telephones, cell phones, and pagers.
* Establish Professional Responsibility Training: Several inspectors and border patrol agents have been indicted and convicted for lapses in professional responsibility. Edwards would establish better training that will focus on employee integrity and improved reporting of corruption.

Keeping America Safe And Free

John Edwards believes we must stop the Bush administration's trampling of basic freedoms in the name of the war against terror. As president, Edwards will fix the Patriot Act, respect the FISA court process that requires quick and classified review by a special court of search warrants issued under the National Security Act, and say no to torture.

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