Transportation Policy

How the New Homeland Security Department Will Work


THE CHAIRMAN: Is this thing on? Hello? OK. Our witnesses are a bit pressed for time this morning, so I'm going, with my distinguished colleagues' permission, to dispense with introductory statements. The members of the committee are invited to submit those for the record. We'll just get straight to it.

We are privileged to have with us today the secretary of Homeland Security, who is, as we know, working to safeguard our nation's security while also implementing a major government reorganization that passed two years ago. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.

THE SECRETARY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee.

THE CHAIRMAN: And who are those 18—no, let's see, 19—ladies and gentlemen sitting there with you at the witness table?

THE SECRETARY: I'm honored to be joined today by Frieda Cooper, my undersecretary for management, who is to my left; to her left, Irving Walloon, undersecretary for critical infrastructure protection; to his left, David Davison, deputy undersecretary for intelligence; to his left, Wally Mortimer, undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response; to his left, Richard Postlethwaite, undersecretary for science and technology; to his left, Stewart Steinbach, undersecretary for immigration affairs —

THE CHAIRMAN: In the interest of time, shall we just enter their names in the record? OK. Thank you all for being here.

Now, you know and I know, and I think everyone in this room knows, that there have been a lot of news articles lately about confusion and disorder in the department, and we're concerned about it, and the American people are concerned, and we hoped you could enlighten us a little bit today on your efforts to, I guess, streamline things. Mr. Secretary?

THE SECRETARY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll just summarize my prepared testimony. What it comes down to is that, as you know, two years ago, in the National Homeland Security and Combating Terrorism Act of 2002, Congress gathered together almost two dozen federal offices and agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security, of which it is my privilege to be the second secretary, after —

THE CHAIRMAN: How is your predecessor, by the way?

THE SECRETARY: Secretary Giuliani is much improved, or so the folks at St. Elizabeth's have led me to believe. They have mostly taken him off the sedatives, and apparently the drooling and babbling are diminished.

THE CHAIRMAN: I'm glad to hear that. Please continue.

THE SECRETARY: Yes. Well, as you know, conjoining all of these many agencies, each with its own culture and mission, has been a challenge. A major challenge, frankly. In the Directorate of Critical Infrastructure Protection alone we have had to combine the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office from the Commerce Department, the National Infrastructure Protection Center from the FBI, the National Communications System from the Defense Department, the Computer Security Division from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center and the Energy Security and Assurance Program from the Energy Department, and the Federal Computer Incident Response Center and the Federal Protective Service from the General Services Administration.

Then, of course, we have the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Secret Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and others. Plus several newly created bureaus. Oh, sorry, I'm reminded that we also acquired the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, formerly of the Agriculture Department.

Now, a major challenge for us has been to prevent stovepiping and to facilitate communication between and among these diverse entities. As you know, the 2002 act established the Border Security Working Group, which is required to meet at least once every three months. That consists of myself, the undersecretary for border and transportation protection, and the undersecretary for immigration affairs. With that as our model, we also established a number of other intradepartmental working groups, such as the Emerging Technological Threats group, which consists of the deputy secretary, the undersecretary for science and technology, and the undersecretary for intelligence. And more. In fact, several dozen more. We also established, under those, a variety of issue-related sub-groups, such as the Food and Water Security group. Plus a number of coffee klatches and string quartets.

What we found is that, with all these coordinating groups, we needed other coordinating groups to coordinate them. Frankly, with all of this coordinating and consulting, we weren't getting as much done as we would have preferred.

What I'm here to tell you about today is an exciting development, a new type of coordinating authority to coordinate all the coordinators. Mr. Chairman, if you'll allow me, let me turn over the next part of my presentation to [name redacted].

THE CHAIRMAN: Welcome, Mr. [name redacted]. You are, it says here, special assistant to the secretary and chief of the Coordinating Office for National Terrorism Reduction Operations and Liaison.

THE CHIEF: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for letting me brief you today. I'm very happy to be able to tell you about some exciting progress we're making.

My job, as the secretary mentioned, is to coordinate the top coordinators in the department, but with a difference. We found that exchanging knowledge was not enough. The breakthrough—and I think it is a breakthrough—came when we realized we had to combine coordination and information exchange with direct operational authority.

Working under me is a hand-picked staff of multi-use agents who can be assigned on a moment's notice to respond to problems or issues that surface in any of our in-house discussions. These people report directly to me as chief of CONTROL, and I report directly to the secretary.

THE CHAIRMAN: So the idea is to cut through the bureaucracy?

THE CHIEF: That's right. CONTROL collects information from the whole department and can act immediately. I'll give you an example. As you know, our adversaries have responded to the pressure we've put on them by merging and coordinating their operations under an umbrella that includes, among others, operatives of Iraq, Iran, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Collectively, they call themselves the Koranic Alliance to Overthrow Satan. Well, the intelligence directorate surfaced information—we're not saying how—indicating that KAOS was planning a major attack that they referred to as Operation Empire State.

THE CHAIRMAN: Good heavens. You mean—?

THE CHIEF: Yes, sir. Our intelligence staff was able to establish in only a matter of days that Empire State was a code name for the state of New York. We believed they intend to attack a large target there. Instead of trying to mobilize several separate arms of the department, plus the FBI and CIA, we were immediately able to activate our own network of field agents. We recently heard from Eighty-Six and Ninety-Nine that —

THE CHAIRMAN: Come again?

THE CHIEF: Our agents are known by number, for security reasons. Eighty-Six and Ninety-Nine are a senior team out of our New York field office. They have identified 473 potential targets with the name Empire State. Just this morning we got an update, and so far they have managed to dossier and rule out 328 of those, including the Empire State Bowling League, the Empire State Linen and Towel Service, Empire State Wrecking Inc., and the Empire State Kennel Club. So we think we're closing in.

Now, that's just an example. There is much more we could tell you about. We have established a hardened telecommunications network that is completely independent of the ordinary cellular and land lines. Security is total. We can communicate instantly with any of our agents at any time by means of their SPCAs. We can —

THE CHAIRMAN: Sorry, SPCAs? Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?

THE CHIEF: No, excuse me, that stands for Secure Poditic Communications Apparatus. This is a communications device installed in the shoe. It can be carried on the agent's person constantly yet is completely inconspicuous. Except when it rings, of course. Plus it's hard to find in narrow widths. We're still working on that.