Issue Position: Homeland Security
Senator John McCain believes that the highest priority for any President is protecting the lives of American citizens, defending their personal freedom, and securing our land and resources. John McCain has the experience to insure that this priority is put into practice by the hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women who serve their country in homeland security positions every day. John McCain knows what commitment to country means, and he will lead by example when it comes to making sure that this country's homeland is protected.
In response to the intelligence sharing and national security failures that contributed to the catastrophe of 9/11, John McCain co-authored and championed legislation to strengthen our nation's homeland security, create the 9/11 Commission and to implement its recommendations. Following the release of the Commission's Report in July 2004, John McCain and Senator Joe Lieberman introduced legislation to implement the Commission's recommendations. John McCain's reaction to the Commission's findings in 2004 remains his overarching homeland security position: "One lesson from the Commission's report is that no one set of strategies is sufficient to prevent future terrorist attacks. The United States must use all of the instruments at our disposal to counter the short and long-term threats posed by international terrorism." (John McCain, Senate Floor statement, 9/7/04)
Some of the critical 9/11 Commission recommendations have been implemented, with John McCain's support. We have created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is a center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence. We've created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is charged with managing the national intelligence program and overseeing the agencies that contribute to it. We have implemented and reauthorized the PATRIOT ACT, which has provided our homeland security officials with the authority necessary to effectively investigate and seek to prevent future attacks.
However, our government has failed to implement other aspects of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. One glaring example of this is Congress' failure to heed the call to significantly streamline Congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Still today, approximately 80 committees and subcommittees within the two houses of Congress have oversight functions over DHS. Such inefficient oversight unduly distracts the professionals within the department from doing their jobs of protecting America, since they are required to respond to voluminous and often repetitive requests for testimony and briefings. The 9/11 Commission urged Congress to "create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security." This recommendation, along with the other 9/11 Commission recommendations, must become a reality.
Threats against our country may come from well-funded, well-organized and radical terrorists. Our homeland security plans must also consider threats posed by major accidents, or nature itself. In each instance, John McCain's strategy is to prevent those incidents we can, prepare for and respond to disasters of all kinds, and improve the recovery process for disaster victims.
To meet this challenge, John McCain will bring into his Administration strong management at the federal level experienced in combating terrorist risks and in disaster response and recovery; he will rely on existing relationships, and insist on forging stronger partnerships, with state and local officials; and he will work with the private sector and an informed citizenry to safeguard our security. Public-private partnerships are an essential part of the entire homeland security effort - from planning to implementation and operations.
* Preventing terrorism begins abroad, where the majority of those who would harm us are planning, training and raising resources. Working with our allies, a McCain Administration will find and disrupt terrorist organizations and their financing and ensure that weapons of mass destruction do not fall into terrorists' hands. The successful effort to break up the terrorist plot to bomb flights from London to the U.S. illustrates the essential nature of our international cooperation in meeting this challenge.
Effective Intelligence Gathering
* John McCain will enhance our intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities. From the onset of the debate through is ultimate adoption, John McCain strongly supported modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to provide in statute clear guidance for future actions that may need to be taken. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain never believed that we should punish telecommunications companies that acted in good faith in response to requests for assistance from the nation's senior national security advisors.
* Of course, gathering reliable intelligence is only the first step in investigating and preventing terrorist plots. John McCain has called for comprehensive reform of our intelligence gathering efforts. John McCain will insure that intelligence is used effectively to protect the American people.
Cooperation Between Federal and Local Authorities
* Just as importantly, a McCain Administration will work to share information the federal government has in a timely way with state and local law enforcement authorities, who must be treated as equal partners with the federal government in this effort. John McCain will continue to push for federal funding to be allocated to state, local and tribal governments on a risk assessment basis, providing those areas with the highest risk the greatest allocations, so that they can be prepared to address these risks. These funds will not be provided to state, local and tribal governments without accountability, however. John McCain will insure that allocations to state and local authorities are based upon a risk assessment of those areas that face greatest risk and demonstrate both a need and a plan for utilizing the funds to address the risks. In large cities, local authorities will be required to share their information with federal authorities, justifying the large federal subsidies they now receive. Two-way information sharing between national and state and local governments is essential to detect potential threats and prevent future attacks.
Responsibly Securing Our Borders
* For John McCain, a secure border is an essential element of our homeland security and, as President, he will finish the job of securing our land borders, ports and airports. He knows our border must be secure and that while progress is being made, the federal government still has not lived up to its responsibility to make it fully secure. As president, John McCain will secure the border by delivering the adequate funding to those agencies charged with protecting our borders so that we have the most state-of-the-art technology and the sufficient personnel to meet the challenges we face. John McCain will also require that border-state governors certify that the border is secure. As part of this commitment, John McCain co-sponsored "The Border Security First Act of 2007", an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill and Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The measure provided $3 billion to fund:
o Establishing operational control over the entire US border;
o Providing funding to construct 700 miles of fencing;
o Hiring and training more border patrol agents;
o Providing funding to procure Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), ground sensors, and vehicle barriers;
o Increasing the ability to detain immigrants for overstaying their visas and committing other crimes;
o Assisting states and localities that undergo training to assist the Federal government in enforcing immigration law; and
o Improving employment eligibility verification.
* A McCain Administration will strengthen the process of screening both individuals and cargo before they enter our ports and airports. We need to know who and what is entering our country and where they are destined. This task must be accomplished by utilizing the appropriate mix of dedicated manpower, state-of-the-art technology, reliable information analysis, and sturdy physical barriers. For cargo, a comprehensive, layered and risk based supply chain security strategy is needed. That includes not only deployment of sophisticated detection equipment at our ports and points of entry, but cooperation with foreign authorities at ports of origin and transshipment. For people, the importance of effective screening was demonstrated in the cases of Raed Mansour al-Banna, who was stopped from entering the country by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Chicago O'Hare airport. After he was denied entry into the U.S., he served as a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda in Iraq, killing 132 innocent Iraqis. Another example is the case of Ahmed Ressam, who was stopped by Customs agents trying to enter the country with explosives to team up with other Al Qaeda operatives to bomb Los Angeles International airport.
* A McCain Administration will continue to work with our neighbors Mexico and Canada on shared approaches to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling, and at the same time facilitate the free flow of commerce across our borders.
Protecting America's Technology
* Another important aspect of border security is to insure that sophisticated technology and weaponry do not get into the hands of terrorist organizations or rogue states. The U.S. must pursue stepped up counter proliferation efforts.
* Paramount in this area is the need to obtain the international consensus for strict sanctions that would prevent Iran from obtaining the material and know-how necessary for developing nuclear weapons. We know that Iran is seeking nuclear energy development technology and expertise from whatever foreign source is willing to supply it to them. We must work collectively with our foreign allies to make sure that Iran is not able to accomplish the transformation of that nuclear energy technology into weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us or our allies.
Catastrophic Event Preparedness and Response
* No matter what the source of a disaster, our level of preparedness will determine the strength of our response and the speed of our recovery. When Americans confront a catastrophe, they need basic competence from government at all levels. John McCain will ensure that government response efforts operate immediately and effectively, and that we never repeat the failures of the Hurricane Katrina response.
* At the federal level, a McCain Administration will ensure that there is a unified plan and the necessary assistance to help states and localities deal with disaster. In addition to ensuring that people have safe shelter and medical attention, we must get into these communities quickly with recovery resource teams from all relevant agencies, and make sure they have the flexibility to expedite assistance and cut through bureaucratic processes that can delay help.
* John McCain will appoint strong leaders, experienced in disaster management at FEMA, and other federal agencies responsible in this area. He will also make sure that - starting at the Cabinet levelall members of his Administration understand the importance of disaster management and are held accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities in this area.
* John McCain believes that recovery efforts should leverage private sector expertise. America has many of the best run businesses in the world, yet we fail to take full advantage of their know-how and can-do spirit when catastrophe strikes - as the disastrous response to Katrina showed. For example, UPS, FedEx, and Wal-Mart can tell in real time where a package is anywhere in the world, but FEMA, despite its $3 billion-plus budget at the time, couldn't track many of its assets during its Katrina response, needlessly delaying help to our citizens. Government-run Emergency Operations Centers across the nation should include a Business Operations Center, so that the private sector also surges into the disaster zone with manpower, equipment and material. And federal law should provide sufficient liability protections to encourage companies to act as a force multiplier' for the government during disaster response and recovery efforts.
Supporting First Responders
* John McCain has championed the causes of police, firefighters and other emergency response personnel and has fought since February 1997 to provide them with wireless spectrum and funding to provide for interoperable communications between emergency responders and officials in their own city or county and with surrounding cities and counties.
* "With all the technology innovations of recent years, how is it that first responders, those we depend on when disaster strikes, are still unable to adequately communicate with each other during an emergency, while we are able to watch the crisis unfold on our television sets? It's because public officials have yet to get serious about developing and funding a safety communications system for all local, state and federal first responders. This reality became all too clear during the bungled response to Katrina. The federal government needs to develop a comprehensive, interoperable emergency communications plan and set equipment standards, fund the purchase of emergency and interoperable communications equipment, and provide additional radio spectrum that will allow first responders to communicate over long distances using the same radio frequencies and equipment."
* John McCain has long supported an expansion of the available radio spectrum to enable more reliable and immediate communication capacity. "The federal government has made strides in developing a comprehensive, interoperable emergency communications plan, establishing equipment standards, funding the purchase of emergency and interoperable communications equipment, and belatedly making additional radio spectrum available. But none of this is enough. We must do more. The network, which would be created by licensing an additional 30 MHz of radio spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band to a Public Safety Broadband Trust, would provide first responders seamless nationwide roaming capability and allow for the real time transmission of data. It is now time to think big and bold and solve the interoperability crisis once and for all. We are at a watershed moment where we can provide more of the 700 MHz spectrum to solve our national public safety communications crisis and greatly enhance our emergency preparedness. If we do not act now, this valuable spectrum will be auctioned off and this opportunity will be lost forever," (John McCain, Press Release On Plan To Provide First Responders With A National Interoperable Broadband Network, 1/31/2007).
Protecting Critical Infrastructure
* John McCain will provide an effective framework for protecting the numerous areas of the country's critical infrastructure, including water and food systems, the chemical and defense industries, information technology, energy (nuclear, gas and oil, electrical and dams), transportation (air, highways, rail, ports, and waterways), agriculture, health systems and emergency services, telecommunications, banking and finance, postal and shipping entities, and national monuments and icons.
* John McCain believes the following infrastructure systems require urgent consideration.
Protecting Water Sources and Storage Systems
* The nation's water supply and storage systems remain extremely vulnerable to tampering and contamination, and must be secured immediately. John McCain will work to ensure that all States and municipalities that are responsible for water supply or storage function adequately secure those systems in a manner that eliminates any risk of devastating contamination.
* Chemical plants present attractive terrorist targets, particularly those located in close proximity to large cities. John McCain will insure that chemical facilities develop Security Vulnerability Assessments and adopt Site Security Plans that identify and address security vulnerabilities.
* Much of our national security and economy are dependent on reliable and secure cyberspace and cyber assets. A McCain Administration will give priority attention to protecting critical information infrastructure and enhancing cyber security, with full support for the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT) and the National Cyber Response Coordination Group, both of which exist to coordinate all federal agencies and law enforcement groups responsible for effectively responding to a nationwide cyber security threat.
Fixing Our Self-Created Energy Vulnerability - John McCain's Lexington Project
* Each year our country becomes increasingly dependent on foreign sources of energy to fuel our cars and run our economy. We are making ourselves and our nation's prosperity increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks on our energy supply lines. This dependency on foreign oil is quickly becoming the most urgent national security crisis that we face. As President, John McCain will break with the energy policies, not just of the current Administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America. At the time of Arab oil embargo in the 1970s, we imported roughly a third of our oil. Now we import two thirds. At that time, every day, we produced more than nine million barrels of oil domestically. Now America produces five million barrels a day. By relying upon oil from the Middle East, we not only provide wealth to the sponsors of terror -- we provide high-value targets to the terrorists themselves. Across the world are pipelines, refineries, transit routes, and terminals for the oil we rely on -- and Al Qaeda terrorists know where they are. Osama bin Laden has been quite explicit in directing terrorists to attack the oil facilities on which so much of America's economy depends. They have come close more than once. And we are one successful attack away from an economic crisis of monumental proportions.
* During this campaign, John McCain has focused on the energy crisis we face and offered solutions to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase domestic oil and gas production, additional zero-emission nuclear energy plants, development of clean coal technology, and development of additional alternative energy sources. In this presidential campaign, only John McCain has an energy strategy to remedy this increasing and intolerable vulnerability of our nation. For more information on John McCain's "Lexington Project."
Protecting Public Transportation
* John McCain believes that while we have made strides in promoting transportation security, more must be done. John McCain will continue to fight to strengthen the safety and security of our nation's transportation system, including its rail network.
Support the Military Commissions Act (MCA)
* John McCain supported the adoption of the MCA in 2006, which was a good-faith effort by Congress to meet the Supreme Court's direction to establish a process to bring detained Al Qaeda terrorists to trial.
* Unlike Senator Obama who voted against the MCA and favors giving Al Qaeda terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention through habeas corpus rights, John McCain recognizes that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals. John McCain is more concerned with protecting the American people from future terrorist attacks, by killing or bringing to justice those who commit them, than he is with giving terrorists rights that would allow a judge to set them free before they are tried.