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Homeland Security

Remarks by Secretary Janet Napolitano at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service

Release Date: 
October 4, 2011

George Bush School of Government and Public Service
College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University
Remarks as Prepared

Introduction

Thank you Dr. Loftin for that kind introduction. And thank you to the Scowcroft Institute and the Bush School of Public Service here at Texas A&M University for inviting me today.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been speaking at colleges and universities, discussing some of the major issues related to our homeland security.

This has taken me to campuses around the country, and, in fact, I spoke on border security at the University of Texas – El Paso at the beginning of the year.

And one of the best parts of this tour has been speaking with students. I just met with a group of impressive young Aggies before coming over to the auditorium, including members of the Corps of Cadets

I know there is a strong reputation for service at this University, and, indeed, at the Bush School. I think the sense of energy and sense of commitment in the young people I met affirms not only their bright futures, but that of our Nation as well. And, I should say, I think that goes no matter what athletic conference the Aggies find themselves in.

Ten Years After 9/11 and Evolving Threats

A decade has now passed since the tragic attacks of 9/11, when terrorists exploited our nation's aviation system to kill nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children, including citizens of more than 90 countries.

Today, however, there is no question that America is stronger and more secure than we were a decade ago. We bounced back from the worst attacks ever on our soil, and we made progress on every front to protect ourselves.

Our experience these past ten years also has made us smarter about the kind of threats we face, and how best to deal with them.

We have used this knowledge to make our nation and communities more resilient, not only to terrorist attacks, but also to threats and disasters of all kinds while, at the same time, safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Americans.

But there should be no doubt: serious threats from terrorism remain. Terrorism did not begin on 9/11, nor did it end with the death of Osama bin Laden. Today's terrorist threats are real and rapidly evolving. They demand our constant vigilance. And they demand our willingness to learn and adapt.

In addition to the direct threats we still face from al Qaeda, we also face growing threats from other foreign-based terrorist groups that are inspired by al Qaeda's ideology.

We also face a threat environment where violent extremism is neither constrained by international borders nor limited to any single ideology. And, indeed, one of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America have increasingly involved American residents and citizens.

The fact that these new kinds of threats can come from any direction, and with little or no warning, changes much of our thinking about terrorism prevention.

Of course, we still need a strong military and top-notch intelligence to fight terrorism abroad; the operation that led to Osama bin Laden's death clearly demonstrates this.

But one of the biggest implications of the new threats is that more and more often, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers – and their community partners – are best positioned to uncover the first signs of terrorist activity.

That is why, since becoming Secretary in 2009, I have made one of my very top priorities getting information, tools, and resources out of Washington, D.C., and into the hands of those on the front lines of keeping their communities safe.

The Homeland Security Enterprise

It is important to understand a major premise of defending against today's threats. While securing the homeland is the founding mission of DHS, no federal agency – or any part of government – can, by itself, deliver security.

Maybe more than at any point in our nation's history, we share in this responsibility. And this has broad implications for how we will continue to work with our partners to keep our country safe and secure.

Meeting these challenges requires that we adopt what has become a guiding principle for us – and that's the principle of shared responsibility, of achieving homeland security by building our hometown security, of taking a whole-of-nation approach.

To support this, we have built and strengthened a homeland security enterprise that, in addition to all levels of government and law enforcement, also includes the private sector and the American public. From the federal to the state, local, tribal, and territorial, and then to the community level, we are connected like never before.

For example, because we understand the critical importance of analyzing threat information at the local level, and then sharing that information wherever it may be relevant, we now have 72 recognized state and major-urban-area fusion centers throughout the country, including 3 here in Texas.

This past April, we also made some significant changes to how we report threat information to our law enforcement partners and the American people … by launching the new National Terrorism Advisory System. This new system replaces the old color-coded system. It is designed to deliver timely, detailed information about terrorist threats and steps to take to the public, government agencies, first responders, transportation hubs, and the private sector.

"If You See Something, Say Something™" / SAR Initiative

Of course, citizen and community awareness is an important layer of security and has been instrumental in helping thwart crime and terrorism.

To help increase this awareness, over the past year, DHS has collaborated closely with federal, state, local and private sector partners, as well as the Department of Justice, to expand the "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign and the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative.

The SAR initiative is an administration effort to train state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism, crime and other threats; standardize how those observations are documented and analyzed; and ensure the sharing of those reports with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led Joint Terrorism Task Forces for further investigation.

The "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign, which started in New York City under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and crime and emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper law enforcement authorities.

After all, it was an alert street vendor in Times Square that helped thwart a successful attack there last May. And in January, alert city workers in Spokane, Washington, reported a suspicious backpack, and thwarted what almost certainly would have been a deadly bombing along a busy parade route.

And recently, it was a store employee in Killeen, Texas who reported suspicious behavior to authorities, potentially averting another deadly attack at the Fort Hood Army Base.

The Future of the Homeland Security Enterprise

The big question before us, and that I would like to turn to, is how we build upon our progress to anticipate future threats, and to better engage all parts of our society in making our communities more resilient and secure.

When Congress combined 22 agencies and departments to create DHS 8 years ago, it was the largest reorganization of the Federal government since the Department of Defense was created in 1947. In creating a Cabinet-level agency, the belief was that you could only tackle a problem as complex as securing the homeland if you brought together the different kinds of expertise, and the multiple resources, that exist across our government.

And I believe that over the past two and a half years, building on the work of my predecessors, we have gone a long way to shape an approach to making our homeland more secure and resilient.

By resilient, I mean taking the steps ahead of time – as a community, as a college campus, as a town or city or company – that will allow us to bounce back quickly from any kind of incident or crisis.

But we also have a ways to go to thoroughly integrate our functions and capabilities. Let me be frank. To accomplish that integration, we need the minds and talents of individuals who are excited by coming into an emerging area who want to help shape a field that sits at the heart of many of the tough questions we face as a nation.

Here's one example: in just the last few weeks, my Department has worked on:

  • Earthquake and hurricane response
  • Public awareness around the 9/11 Anniversary
  • Shutting down human trafficking rings
  • Securing our supply chain
  • New cybersecurity agreements with international partners.

What they have in common is that each of these areas can potentially impact the security of our homeland – of our people, our privacy and data, our infrastructure yet each also has its own unique set of rules and regulations, its own history and relationships.

So at DHS, we are constantly asking, and trying to answer the tough questions that come with this broad set of missions:

  • How do we keep travel and trade flowing across borders while at the same time enhancing our security?
  • How do we secure our nation's critical infrastructure when the vast majority of it is in private hands?
  • How do we address the risk of potentially catastrophic events – a major earthquake or attack – when we do not know where or when it could happen, or what, exactly, it would look like?
  • How do we do our job of providing security while protecting civil rights and civil liberties?

These are the challenges that our national – and international – homeland security enterprise must address. And DHS plays an absolutely central role in this at a time of great change.

For example, helping Texas during the terrible wildfires of the past month. Let me say that our hearts go out to the families affected by these fires.

As the firefighters and first responders did their heroic work, FEMA, which is part of DHS, has also been here, and is offering assistance to residents in the 13 hardest-hit counties. So from the local, to the national and international, the threats and challenges of the networked age in which we live offer both great opportunities and also significant risks.

In the 21st century, the work of mitigating those risks and maximizing our capacity to take advantage of the opportunities – of travel, trade, commerce, and exchange – is the work the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are doing today.

At the same time, they're not doing it alone. As part of the homeland security enterprise, they work with partners at the state, local tribal, and territorial level … they work with the private sector … and they work with the American public.

Looking to the Future & Conclusion

But to make this work together, as we look forward, we need integrated thinking and planning across a range of disciplines – science, law, management, law enforcement, international relations, and cyber. And I believe strongly that our greatest academic institutions – institutions like Texas A&M – will be key to helping us succeed in our security mission.

Why do I think that? Because our nation has done it before.

No analogy is ever perfect. But when we look back to the first years of the Cold War, Americans showed tremendous foresight and poise in building the kind of architecture that could rebuild and stabilize following the war. This included enlisting the expertise of our people, our best academic institutions, and the strength of our values.

Think for a moment that in just four years starting in the spring of 1945, American policymakers were instrumental in creating the UN and the UN Security Council, the Bretton Woods system, the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, the Department of Defense, CIA, and NATO.

The most relevant point for today's challenges is not the need for new institutions. It is that in moments of great complexity and urgency, our nation has responded boldly and confidently. And we will do it again in today's very different climate.

We're seeing leadership on these issues right here at Texas A&M. The homeland security program here at the Bush School points to the kind of new thinking and education we are starting to see emerge at colleges and universities across the country.

This, in turn, is helping homeland security take its place among longer-standing fields – like international affairs and criminal justice – as an area where major global challenges are being studied and addressed.

For the students and young professionals here this evening, you are the next wave of homeland security thinkers, professionals, and managers. You can – and undoubtedly will – have a significant influence on this emerging field.

And I hope you might consider doing that at DHS. The Department offers exciting careers in areas spanning law enforcement, intelligence, and counterterrorism, like intelligence analysts, policy experts, and international affairs specialists who help negotiate global agreements, Secret Service agents and investigators who are protecting our leaders, thwarting terror plots, fighting transnational crime, and breaking up human trafficking rings.

All of these positions come with the opportunity not only to do great work in this exciting field, but to serve your nation as well. In fact, DHS employs nearly 50,000 veterans who are now serving their nation in new ways.

I'll conclude by saying that, today, hometowns across the country are working together, and building a strong foundation for a secure and resilient homeland. Because of these efforts, and those of our men and women on the front lines and our dedicated counterterrorism and emergency management professionals, we are stronger than we were on 9/11.

We will never be able to seal our country under a glass dome to prevent future terrorist attacks or disasters. But we can continue to do everything possible to minimize the possibility that such an attack will succeed, and maximize our ability to respond effectively. Protecting the nation is a shared responsibility and we all have an important role to play. Thank You.

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