Russell Senate Office Building
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): Madame Secretary, people are coming, I promise. And, it's just -- everyday is one of those days, right? You know a little bit about that.
Sec. Napolitano: I do, indeed.
Sen. Rockefeller: One of the things I wanted to make, which is not in my statement, is that commerce committee -- we're really glad to have you here. And we do have jurisdiction over a bunch of things like Coast Guard, TSA and then there's a bunch of sub -- other entities. And, in all, I think we have 49 percent of your full-time employees come over our, quote, "jurisdiction," or oversight, whatever you -- not jurisdiction, but oversight -- and 35 percent of your discretionary spending. So it's a chunk and I think that makes it -- it's important that you're here because they're extremely important subjects to discuss.
Sec. Napolitano: Yes, Sir.
Sen. Rockefeller: I welcome you and I thank you again for joining us today. And since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security 8 years ago, we have in Congress passed a lot of important pieces of legislation; try to make our nation more safe, more secure.
As the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which really helps, actually, in this job, and now as chairman of this committee, I sit at an intersection between economic and national security in a very, very interesting way, and I have a deep appreciation of the many challenges that we face, that you face, and opportunities either lurking or simply on the horizon.
I'm proud to say that the commerce committee and its members were deeply instrumental in developing all or part of every major piece of legislation that the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for implementing. And we're very acutely aware of that.
During that time, our nation has made a lot of progress in transportation security, but obviously we have a lot of work that remains. A complex global transportation network and supply chain creates enormous security challenges for our nation. For whatever reason, we seem to be slow to understand that as a people, and as a government, I don't think we've done our due diligence in terms of supporting DHS, giving you the money that you need. The Coast Guard is an incredible example of that and then all of the harbor problems and everything that you're struggling -- and doing well -- but you've got money problems.
We have porous borders, both land and sea, that create a lot of inherent risk. Over the last year, I've had the opportunity to discuss the state of maritime and port security with Adm. Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard. I have an enormous regard for that man. I think he has terrific vision and perspective.
And, you know, he's very worried, and sort of reinforced my concept on a lot of things, but one of them was just the concept of small vessels. There are so many small vessels out there. What do we do about small vessels; what does he do; what do you do? I'll be introducing legislation early next year on this issue and I look forward, Madame Secretary, to working with you as we develop that.
I also want to highlight that I remain deeply concerned about the state of aviation security, and especially general aviation security and air cargo security. In particular, we remain far too vulnerable in general aviation. I've always felt that and it's a battle where nobody ever seems to advance the ball, particularly. But I mean that whenever I've been out to Dulles airport I can never remember passing through any metal detector; I never remember having any check on anything. And that should not be. And it's sort of easy and since we all experience that, we notice it and other people would be inclined to notice that too, and they may have ill intent. I think your predecessor shared that view -- or your predecessors -- shared that view. And I look forward to hearing your views on this specific problem on the state of aviation security.
Both Congress and the administration must balance important but competing needs, maintain an efficient flow of commerce while ensuring that no terrorists can enter our country by land, air or sea. And they can, and we all know that.
I understand this balance and I am committed that we in Congress do all we can to make sure that it's achieved, and work with you to help you to make sure that it's all achieved. I understand the GAO -- the General Accountability Office -- is releasing a report for the committee today about the 100 percent scanning mandate for maritime cargo. That's something that the House is really up on.
I have my questions about whether that's doable and I want to talk about that with you because it's a very important subject and you can increase your security if we had all the machinery for it and could afford it, but you might slow down commerce, which I suppose could happen, but when you're talking about all the ports around the world, it becomes pretty complex.
The GAO highlights the enormous difficulty of meeting this mandate due to the global nature of supply chain logistics and simply a lack of technology, sufficient technology. That does not mean that we should not continue to strengthen our security protocols to prevent high-risk cargo from entering this country whether by land, sea or air, but it's a big problem.
We need to work harder to find ways to balance our security needs with our need to move goods and people efficiently. That's always the challenge. And they are not mutually exclusive; they don't have to be mutually exclusive.
You know, the two DNIs, President Bush's and President Obama's, both in an intelligence hearing in the last administration and this hearing -- of sort of global threats, both of them flat out came and said that cyber-security is the greatest threat to national security. Everything else was after that.
We hear that, it goes right through our head, we don't do that much about it, and the various agencies do, and there are, you know, 50 federal agencies claiming jurisdiction and 20 congressional committees or subcommittees claiming jurisdiction, so it's a mess. But it's a mess which stands as our major national security threat. To date, Congress has not spent as much time on cyber security as transportation security, and that has to change. That's our fault. I'm committed to making cyber security a focus for this committee and for this Congress. I want to work with you on that.
The interconnectedness between government and private industry on this critical issue cannot be ignored in the 21st century, and, again, it's the number-one threat. Two different people two years apart said exactly the same thing -- two different administrations, two points of view.
Along with Senator Snowe, I've been working on legislation that aims to address the threats that we face from cyber terrorists who intend to wreck havoc on our infrastructure. Madame Secretary, as you and I have discussed, I've called the White House to develop a national security strategy, coordinate new roles with new responsibilities across old boundaries, and the Congress and the White House and every government agency has to be a part of that solution. And that's very easy to say and extremely tough to get people to acquire the necessary discipline to focus.
We call for somebody who reports to the president -- well, that becomes controversial -- is that a czar? And I sort of don't worry about that. If people say it's the number-one national security threat, to me, that's about all you need to know.
Anyway, we have enormous respect for you. I respect you very much. Over the last eight years, your department has experienced a lot of growing pains. I know you are the right person to move the agency forward. I'm totally confident of that. I look forward to being your partner -- I think we all do -- in solving top-security challenges. And I turn now to the distinguished ranking member, Sen. Hutchinson from the state of Texas.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX): Well, thank you very much, Sen. Rockefeller, for calling this meeting. Welcome, Madame Secretary. I want to start by saying securing our transportation network and infrastructure is essential for our national defense as well as our economic prosperity, and they are both very important roles.
Texas is home to 29 ports, including the Port of Houston, which is one of the busiest ports in the world. It ranks first in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage and is home to one of the world's largest petrochemical complexes as well as the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
A terrorist incident at a major U.S. port could cause a devastating loss of life and deliver a huge blow to our economy. For years, I've worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen our nation's port security and our transportation network. And while we have made great strides since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security faces ever-evolving threats and still must meet numerous challenges. I want to address the transportation security officers, the screeners at airports and other places -- some places, and talk about collective bargaining. While federal law, of course, prohibits screeners from striking, allowing screeners to collectively bargain through a union could have serious consequences on the Transportation Security Administration's fundamental security mission.
I hope that you will talk about that issue and how you intend to address it because I think it is very important for us to know that our screeners will not be able to strike and will not have bargaining that causes work slowdowns and shortages and all of the things that are just short of a strike.
Secondly -- and this is something with which you have much familiarity, I know -- is the movement of goods across our land borders. This is an integral aspect of our economy and must be conducted in a secure and also efficient manner. Unfortunately, the wait times at many of our border crossings have increased while the flow of goods has decreased.
During the floor debate on the SAFE Port Act, I secured an amendment that increased the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers by 275. Now, this is an issue on our land ports; it's also an issue on our water porters where, in some cases, we are having to divide a screener or a transportation border patrol person with a port and an airport in the same area. And that's not a good situation.
I welcome your views on how we can meet our resource needs along the nation's land borders, water borders and airports because I think these are the key issues that we must address. I will ask questions; I will not go further in my statement but I do also have questions about the screening of cargo at both our airports and our water ports. That's another area, as well as, of course, the land ports and the technology for that. So you have a huge job and we know that. That agency is young and it is an amalgamation of many of our security agencies. But your responsibility is also critical, so I welcome you and look forward to asking you questions and hearing what you have to say.
Sen. Rockefeller: Madame Secretary, I should say to my colleagues -- it may be both parties -- but I know our party, we're having a health-care caucus -- I think it's our 1,733rd health-care caucus -- at 11:30. And so what I want to do, with apologies to colleagues on both sides, is to head directly to you so you can make your statement, and then we'll ask you all kinds of questions.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ): (Inaudible, off mike.)
Sen. Rockefeller: We'd be -- they're all entered automatically into the record but the timing of this is -- Sen. Lautenberg, this is not unusual. This is the way we usually do it. When we're not pressed, we don't do it, but we do do it usually. Please proceed.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Sen. Hutchison, members of the committee for the opportunity to testify on the many actions that the Department is taking to secure our country and, at the same time, helping to strengthen the foundation of our economic prosperity. In the interest of time, I have submitted a longer written statement and ask that it be included in the record. But I would like to focus my opening remarks today on one particular issue -- and that is the security of containerized maritime cargo.
For years the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies have been working to mitigate the threat, particularly of a nuclear device being brought into the country. That was the intent behind Congress' mandate that the Department scan 100 percent of maritime cargo headed into the United States by the year 2012.
Now, when the Department looks to mitigate any threat, we look to two guiding principles: first a multilayered approach to security, making us more safe than relying on any single layer. And, second, risk management as a way -- as the best way to make sure that our actions are prioritized and that our resources are focused correctly.
Now, for various reasons, it is difficult to measure in absolute terms the risk of the threat of a nuclear device being brought into the United States. But when we look at our vulnerabilities to this threat, it is clear that we are vulnerable across a number of pathways. And one of these pathways is maritime shipping containers. But there are others -- private airplanes, as you mentioned, Senator; small boats, as you also mentioned; overland smuggling -- are just some examples.
So when we think about securing the borders of the United States, one useful analogy is that of a home. A house has a front door, but it also has a number of other possible entryways -- other doors, the windows, even the chimney. Now, here security has definitely improved at the front door -- in this case, the maritime cargo pathway. But other possible entryways also merit our attention.
So therefore, we have been building a layered approach to maritime cargo security. We collect advanced information on cargo entering the United States: who has it, where it's going, who may have had access to it, so that we can focus on higher-risk cargo. We work with partners in the shipping industry to improve their security. Once we ensure that a company has put strong security measures in place, we focus on higher-risk shipments.
DHS personnel right now are located at 58 ports in 44 other countries, working with 44 officials -- 44 -- other countries working with foreign officials to help ensure the security of U.S.-bound cargo. And, on top of these measures, there is the 100-percent scanning requirement being advanced by pilot projects at five foreign ports. Now, DHS has learned a great deal from these pilots, but it has also encountered a number of steep challenges. Some of these issues relate to the limits on current technology. Technology doesn't exist right now to effectively and automatically detect suspicious anomalies and cargo. This makes scanning difficult and time-consuming.
Available technology is also limited in their ability to see accurately through very dense cargo and density often can be the measure of something being disguised. Other challenges are logistical. Many ports do not have a single point through which most of the cargo passes, which means that 100-percent scanning would either severely slow trade or require a redesign of the port.
And, on that note, the costs of 100-percent scanning are very steep, especially in a down economy. DHS equipment costs alone would be about $8 million for every one of the 2,100 shipping lanes at the more than 700 ports that ship to the United States. So therefore, DHS is compelled to seek the time extensions authorized by law with respect to the scanning provision.
But the scanning provision has served and is serving its purpose, allowing DHS to focus on this important issue and to gain expertise in it. And so, in the view of the department, while we need to continue the current efforts, we need to address the security of maritime cargo through a wider lens: how to mitigate the threat against all potential pathways including, metaphorically, the other doors, the windows and the chimney.
I look forward to working with you and the Congress on an approach to secure all vulnerable pathways that could be used to smuggle a nuclear device into our country. Let me, if I might, just briefly mention other actions we are taking to help secure some of the other pathways into our country. These include significant strides in ensuring the security of air cargo. These efforts include work by the Coast Guard to collaborate with our partners at other ports and with the small boat community to identify potential dangers and identify a small boat strategy. Our efforts also include work with the general aviation community to devise rules to help secure the country from a dangerous weapon being smuggled here via private aircraft.
So as you can see, we are taking action, but much work remains. So I look forward to working with this committee and with this Congress on addressing this and other threats. I thank you again for the opportunity to testify. I'll look forward to addressing some of the issues that you have raised in your own statements and to answer to the best of my ability the questions that you might have. Thank you.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. Let me start out with a relatively small thing, but which seems to be very fixable and we can be a part of that. The drug trade is transporting enormous amounts of cash via vessels on the high seas since our money laundering laws were tightened post-9/11. I understand from the Department of Justice -- and they had a big conference on this fairly recently -- there was a general agreement that we need to tighten up laws so that we can prosecute. We cannot prosecute at this point. And so, what I'm asking is that if you agree that existing laws are insufficient in order to prosecute these criminals and have you evaluated the threat with the Department of Justice and do you need additional authority and can we help with additional authority so that these criminals can be prosecuted?
Sec. Napolitano: Mr. Chairman, I think that in that connection I would defer to the Department of Justice who would have the actual prosecutorial responsibility. But I would inform the committee that we have seen an uptick in cash going by sea that is being used in the drug trade, proceeds of the drug trade -- also drugs coming in by sea. That may be an indicator that many of the measures we're taking at the land border, particularly the southwest border, are having an impact because we are now inspecting so much more of the south-bound lanes than -- way more than ever previously.
And we have dog teams, in fact, down at the southwest border that are trained to sniff out bulk cash that would be going south into Mexico as the proceeds of the drug trade. So if there is any good news there, it may be that we're forcing these drug cartels into the ocean.
Sen. Rockefeller: All right. But, then --
Sec. Napolitano: The answer is yes.
Sen. Rockefeller: Yes. That's what I wanted. Just one more and then we'll proceed. Protecting the nation from security risks posed by nearly 13 million small vessels -- I just had no idea that there were 13 million small vessels that exist -- is an absolutely monumental task. There are parallel security threats in the general aviation sector, which I've mentioned, which has been long unaddressed as a matter of vulnerability in our aviation industry. So I want you to respond to that.
I understand that you and Adm. Allen are preparing a revised small-vessel security strategy. When will that be finished? That's one question. It's my understanding that DHS has a number of related, but not coordinated programs to address small-vessel security. How will you integrate these multiple programs into one comprehensive layered security approach?
Sec. Napolitano: The answer to your question, is the small- vessel strategy, the revised strategy will be available by the beginning of 2010. So we're well along. We have incorporated comments from the small-vessel community. We are integrating it into our strategy -- in particular for how we secure the ports -- and Sen. Hutchison, you mentioned the ports in Texas and other ports. And, again, we get to that theory of the layered-risk approach, measuring risk, layering various things. But, for example, having different checks as vessels enter the ports, particularly some of our larger ports, are some of the mechanisms that we're now using.
Sen. Rockefeller: All right. And you have the American Waterways Watch. You have the Citizens Action Network, Pleasure Boat Reporting System -- and it's all voluntary, of course. Is that in any way helpful?
Sec. Napolitano: Those are helpful, yes.
Sen. Rockefeller: But insufficient.
Sec. Napolitano: I think we need an overall strategy and we need to continue to work on the small-boat issue. I would not sit here today and tell you we have solved that problem.
Sen. Rockefeller: I thank you and Senator Hutchison.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let's start on the collective bargaining issue. What is your view about the effort to have collective bargaining among the transportation security administration screeners and personnel?
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you, Senator. I think that we can accomplish collective bargaining and also do that in such a fashion that we never at one moment sacrifice any bit of security, that that can be built into any collective bargaining agreement. By the way, I'd like to thank the committee for supporting the nomination of Erroll Southers to be the head of TSA. Obviously, he would have a point position on that particular issue.
Sen. Hutchison: And what would be the safeguards? I mean, I mentioned earlier and addressed that -- the slowdowns, the sick-outs (ph) -- that sort of thing could have terrible consequences on our security. So what would you do to protect the traveling public from this kind of diminishment of capability if there were collective bargaining?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, now I speak now as a former governor and a former state attorney general. There are examples around the country of collective bargaining agreements with law enforcement agencies that have similar responsibilities, where you have carve- outs, in effect, in the collective bargaining context to make sure that those types of things are not part of the collective bargaining agreement.
We would anticipate, in this context with the TSOs that we would be able to reach such an understanding. I will say, by the way, that I worked as a TSO screener last Wednesday -- the busiest travel day of the year -- and got a little bit of insight into what their life is like on the line. And I also saw a lot of different kinds of shoes.
Sen. Hutchison: Well, let me say, Madame Secretary, I appreciate that and I think they're doing a great job, because of course, we all travel so much. And I think they are doing a great job. But what about the need for flexibility when there is a threat, a crisis, where you have to do something very quickly? Is that on your agenda for protection as well, if you're going to go into collective bargaining, where someone can be called, they can work more than the established number of hours? Do you have that kind of flexibility and are you going to use it?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, the answer is yes, but I will give you an example: Even without a collective bargaining agreement right now, our TSA employees have been very eager to, whenever we've had an emergency and we need to, for example, bring more people down to help staff an airport in a hurricane, when people who work there have to stay home and work with their families because their house has been destroyed or whatever. And we have never had a problem in my experience with employees being willing to move to a place where a crisis is occurring.
Sen. Hutchison: Well, this is something that we will want to watch very carefully, because I think it has some pretty strong consequences if it's done and if it's not done right. Let me ask one more question and then I will be finished for this round. Guantanamo Bay detainees being tried in New York -- we all know that a decision has been made to do that. I have two questions. Number one, were you consulted about the security issues that would surround such a trial before the attorney general made that decision? And secondly, are you going to take extra measures during that trial to protect the traveling public while that is going on in New York?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, the Department of Homeland Security is part of the review team that President Obama established in connection with closing the prison part of Gitmo -- not all of Gitmo, but where the detainees are. And the answer is that we have been working on a host of security issues. And I would anticipate we will be working not just with DOJ, but also with the city of New York as they prepare for the trial.
Sen. Hutchison: So were you consulted in the beginning, before the decision was made to bring them to New York for trial?
Sec. Napolitano: I was not -- not in the sense of being consulted as to whether security concerns would preclude the ability to try them in New York, but I'm very comfortable with the decision to try them in New York.
Sen. Hutchison: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Hutchison. Senator Lautenberg?
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ): Secretary Napolitano, we are very comforted by the fact that you're in charge there. You come with a great record of public service and you've shown a firm hand since you're here. So with that, I ask two years ago, Congress acted to require 100 percent scanning of all shipping containers.
Now, one of the things that we know is that our only threat isn't nuclear, obviously. The worst attack we've had on American shores was not nuclear, but it was devastating. So we've got lots of places to look. Threats don't only exist in containers, as you have noted. Do we see any concrete improvements in cargo scanning that have been made since January of this year?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, Senator I would point to at least two. One is that at the end of January of this year, the so-called "ten- plus-two" interim rule went into effect, and I look forward to this January, when we'll see even more compliance with this rule. This is a rule that really provides shippers to provide more advance information about what is in a container, who's had access to it, who's packed it and the like that we can then use and evaluate against a number of risk measures that CBP now has.
And in addition, we have seen our ability, now, particularly with ARRA money and some other monies that the Congress has supplied, an ability to build up even more on some of our port security. And that has occurred since the beginning of the year.
Sen. Lautenberg: Let me ask you this: Since the task of securing 100 percent scanning is so monumental, is there a linear approach that says let's look to those ports that come under most concern? I'm sure that we have identified those, would we not? And but also, one of the things that I looked at -- I'm chairman of the service transportation subcommittee -- and when we looked at where we have to be concerned, we've got to look at mass transit, passenger rail -- frequent targets of terrorist attacks.
Last week, a terrorist bombing of a Russian train resulted in the loss of 26 lives. But those threats have not influenced our transportation security efforts to the level that, frankly, I think ought to be required in terms of balance. What steps are being taken now by the administration to protect those millions of Americans who daily travel by mass transit or passenger rail service?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, Senator, I'd like the opportunity to provide you with a more detailed answer in writing, because a number of steps have been and are being taken, from the deployment of grant monies to localities that operate mass transit busses -- you know, those sorts of things -- streetcars and light rail and the like. I think in terms of grants in 2010, Congress appropriated $300 million for that purpose and then the recovery act added another $150 million in FY2010. And those grant monies are being deployed. I think we are also deploying a number of portable monitors, more transit officers, particularly in large transit hubs.
In addition, we have deployed behavioral detection officers under the so-called SPOT program, to give you just an indication of a few of the things that are happening in the land transportation environment where passengers are involved.
Sen. Lautenberg: We're out of time, but obviously, there is a lot to talk about. And I will take the liberty of inviting you in so that we can have a discussion of some of the issues. And I appreciate your service, thank you.
Sec. Napolitano: Yeah, I look forward to that. Thank you, Senator.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Lautenberg. Senator Isakson?
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Madame Secretary, first of all two compliments. I want to thank you for the tremendous effort you and the department and FEMA made in Georgia during the recent floods. I appreciate your flying down the Georgia and seeing firsthand and I have to tell you the response of TSA has been -- I mean, of FEMA has been fantastic and we're very grateful.
Secondly, we had an issue with approvals from your department with regard to African landings by Delta airlines in a number of their locations which ran into a lot of difficulty, but since that time, I want to thank you for the effort you've paid on that. I understand that things with regard to Angola and Liberia are moving along nicely. And with another request that's come -- that's all the compliments; the next things are the questions.
Sec. Napolitano: Okay, now I'm ready.
Sen. Isakson: We have a -- Delta has announced it wants to fly into Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on the West Coast of Africa, which is a gateway location. Equatorial Guinea has already issued an advance approval and is doing everything that's been asked of them, but they need assistance -- not in terms of money, but in terms of the Safe Skies for Africa program from FAA and TSA.
And in a recent meeting in Atlanta, a TSA official announced that three African countries would get that assistance. I just want to urge you to make sure Equatorial Guinea is one of the three that gets the Safe Skies Africa assistance so that, that can in fact take place as soon as possible.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you.
Sen. Isakson: And secondly, we talked a little bit on the plane going to Georgia about AirTran and a pre-clearance request they'd made in Aruba. As you know, in a number of places, it's important for pre- clearance by Customs and Border Patrol so that people transferring back into the United States are cleared when they leave so that they can land at a regular terminal gate and leave without going through Customs and Border Patrol at the point that they leave.
That request was rejected, which I have been told -- and I don't know this to be a fact, so it's not an accusation; it's a rumor -- but that's the first time pre-clearance has been rejected by TSA. I would like to ask you, Aruba is a tremendous source of travel back and forth -- primarily vacation travel. Atlanta is a -- Hartsfield is a huge point they leave from. There are already 20 to 24 flights on a Saturday, which is the big travel day for tourism.
And it requires a little extra personnel on behalf of the department to make the pre-clearance possible, but you already have 20 to 24 flights leaving during a five-hour window on Saturday anyway, so I'd really like for that application to be looked at again and see if there's anything we can do to facilitate that.
Sec. Napolitano: Senator we'll be happy to review that application again.
Sen. Isakson: And lastly, a question. On the US-VISIT program, we require biometrics, primarily in the form of fingerprints, which are validated when someone comes into the United States by air at the US-VISIT program. It is my understanding that it is the third phase of the program is getting ready to be announced, which will also require, in terms of airport -- leaving the country, a revalidation of the fingerprint to ensure the person leaving is the person, in fact, that is supposed to be leaving.
But that's not going to be required at our seaports or at our border crossings with Canada and Mexico on the ground. And 80 percent of the people that come to the United States come either by sea or by those -- the Canadian border or the Mexican border, as I'm told. Why would we not check those borders as well, when they leave, to validate that the person leaving is in fact the person that we think they are?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator I'll get back to you, but let me just -- my educated guess is that with respect to the Mexico and Canadian travelers, that the volume, in terms of number of passengers and number of lanes is such that the logistics of employing that for the exiting visitors at those land ports would be prohibitive. And that's really the bulk of what we're talking about.
Sen. Isakson: Well, I appreciate your answer and I appreciate your following up on both the Equatorial Guinea as well as the Aruba AirTran flight. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sec. Napolitano: You bet.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Isakson. Senator Pryor?
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Madame Secretary, thank you for being here today. It's always good to see you and be with you. Let me ask you a few questions -- one about trucking, specifically trucking with Mexico.
There's been some news reports recently that have been critical of the Border Patrol's Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Program, and the gist of these news reports is that some Mexican gun and drug smugglers are actually using this program because it allows the trucks to get through the border quicker and I guess with less security. Are you aware of that? Are you aware of those news reports?
Sec. Napolitano: I'm not aware of those news reports. I am familiar with the C-TPAT's program however.
Sen. Pryor: Well, there's been some that basically are saying now that the cartels down in Mexico have figured out that that's a way to get things in and out of Mexico. So I just wanted you to be aware of that and maybe talk to your folks about, you know, how valid that is and if there's anything that Homeland Security needs to do to make sure that we minimize that type of activity.
Sec. Napolitano: Oh, absolutely, because those are the kinds of programs -- again, we're always looking, you know, to improve security, but we also have the responsibility to help trade and commerce move --
Sen. Pryor: Right.
Sec. Napolitano: -- and that is a particularly difficult balance to strike at our land ports. So we will take a look at those news reports, Senator.
Sen. Pryor: Well, I agree. I appreciate that, and I know that we have had some, you know, terrible news out of Russia in the last few days, and Senator Lautenberg asked about that. And it may be a little too early to have a lessons learned based on rail security and bombs on trains, or on train tracks. But I would be interested to know as you follow up with Senator Lautenberg about, you know, what we can do better and your assessment of how secure our rail system is in this country.
Sec. Napolitano: Indeed.
Sen. Pryor: And another thing is there's been some -- let's see -- DHSIG report that has looked at FEMA's use of four primary sourcing mechanisms. One is warehouse goods, two is mission assignments, three, interagency agreements, and four, contracts. And basically, the DHIG has said that FEMA does not have a clear, overarching strategy that can guide decision making on which of these sourcing mechanisms should be used to meet a particular need. Are you familiar with that DHSIG assessment?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, I'm familiar generally. I have not read the IG report, but I can say we have confidence that the current administrator of FEMA is addressing any and all concerns that have been raised by the IG, and he's doing it very rapidly.
Sen. Pryor: Yeah, one of the concerns I think that's raised is that in a disaster we need to make sure that we can deliver the critical commodities needed in that locality, and I think it raises a question about that. And the other thing I had for you generally in that same vein is -- I know one of the things that we've talked about in this committee previously and in Homeland Security as well is trying to make sure that DHS and FEMA are working with local and state leaders and doing a better job of coordinating with various industry groups, even like the trucking industry or the retailers or whoever it may be to try to make sure that we can all interconnect when we need to to get what we need done done at a critical moment. Are you comfortable -- are you satisfied that we have been making progress there and there's sufficient cooperation and communication?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, I think and believe very strongly that we have improved cooperation there quite substantially, both from FEMA itself and through the Office of Intergovernmental Programs. And it's everything from regular e-mails, conference calls, and all the rest. And that kind of cooperation, that linkage up with state and locals is absolutely key, not just on the crisis management kinds of issues that FEMA is concerned with, but also with the national and homeland security issues that we also need to be working closely with state and locals on. So the answer is yes, and that continues to be a priority of ours.
Sen. Pryor: And, of course, that ties in with the H1N1 and other, you know, pandemic threats out there to make sure we have that coordination, that preparation on the front end. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Pryor.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Madame Secretary, for your briefing and your service to our country. I want to focus just a few minutes on TSA workers and just a few questions related to them, and I guess they're the group we're most exposed to, as congressmen and senators fly all over the country. We're with them every week. But do you believe the current labor policies of your agency adequately protects the rights and interests of TSA workers?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, we work hard with our employee workforce to address their issues and their interests. And so we work hard with them on a whole host of things.
Sen. DeMint: But do you think an outside agency or group are needed at this point to help establish work requirements or staffing -- standardize the staffing functions or actually help to prescribe how the workforce is managed?
Sec. Napolitano: By outside groups, senator, do you mean a union?
Sen. DeMint: Yes.
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, as I mentioned to Senator Hutchison -- and again, I go back to my experience as a governor, as a state attorney general, my familiarity with --
Sen. DeMint: Right.
Sec. Napolitano: -- these issues. The answer is, is that often times in the process of interaction with the union there are issues raised that management didn't have prior knowledge of, but in any event, all the security type issues can and are addressed, and security for an agency like TSA would always come first.
Sen. DeMint: Well, that's good to hear, and I've certainly seen, you know, the collective bargaining work at the local level when there's a close working relationship, but we're talking around 50,000 people here all over the country. What I've seen since we've implemented the whole homeland security agency -- as you know, in the beginning it was very controversial about unionization, collective bargaining. In fact, we had to suspend all that because there was a belief that with all the collective bargaining agreements we could not pull all the agencies together and do all the changes that were necessary.
One of the I think good aspects of TSA has been -- is their flexibility, their ability to change constantly and use a continuous quality improvement model step-by-step, making changes. And when you see the variety of airports and the different carriers and the different routes and all that are all over the country, the need for flexibility at almost every airport is key. And it's completely inconsistent with the collective bargaining idea that you're going to somehow standardize various aspects of work requirements and the functions. I mean, how can you unionization and collective bargaining enhance security at our airports?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, senator, the answer is collective bargaining and security are not mutually exclusive concepts, and they're done -- and these types of agreements are negotiated all the time all over the United States. And as I said before, security always is our number one interest at the department.
Sen. DeMint: Well, the concern is -- it's easier for us as a Congress to start a new agency than to try to get another one to change, a lot of times because -- collective bargaining agreements. So there's really no example of -- up here that -- of the flexibility that would be needed. The types of changes and flexibility that I see continuously going on with TSA is certainly going to change to a degree if there is a third party involved in the decision making, which there will be. I mean, there's no reason for collective bargaining if there's not some standardization or requirement to appeal to that third party when changes are made.
But my question to you is not whether or not you've seen it work at a state or local level, but the whole point of homeland security and particularly TSA is the security of our -- of the passengers, and if -- in the beginning -- and our debate -- and every previous administrator at TSA has said that collective bargaining is not consistent with the flexibility and the need to change. You were telling us that you're going to collectively bargain, even though there's apparently no reason to protect workers. There's not any reason to standardize various work requirements. Why do we need to bring collective bargaining into this process when we see TSA making the improvements that it needs to make our passengers more secure?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, thank you, senator, for noting the improvements of our -- of TSA and the employee workforce we have there, but again, I go back to the basic point that I do not think security and collective bargaining are mutually exclusive, nor do I think that collective bargaining cannot be accomplished by an agency, such as TSA, should the workers desire to be organized in such a fashion.
Sen. DeMint: Okay. Thank you for answering my question.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you.
Sen. DeMint: Yield back.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, senator, and now Senator Warner.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing, and it's great to see my former colleague, former gubernatorial colleague, Secretary Napolitano, and congratulations, and I echo some of my colleagues' earlier comments about the good job you're doing. I want to continue on another line of questioning with TSA, circumstances happened in my state and I believe a number of other states where airports -- if they're going through renovations -- in my particular state, the Richmond Airport -- went ahead at the encouragement of TSA when they were doing a renovation and did a next generation series of improvement of inline explosive detection equipment. And TSA said go for it. Do it. They went for it, did it three or four years ago. TSA promised them a reimbursement of close to $4 billion -- $4 million. They're still hanging out waiting for this reimbursement, and this is not the only airport that's fallen into this circumstance, and I raise this with Mr. Southers when he came by before his -- when we was going through -- still going through the confirmation process.
But I just want to raise it again at the secretarial level, that there are -- that Richmond Airport is not alone in this circumstance where airports at the instigation of TSA are going through putting in next generation detection equipment, and then if TSA doesn't honor their commitment to do the reimbursement, airports on a going forward basis are not going to take this kind of step that I think is necessary. Richmond went beyond what was required, kind of went to next generation. They did it in a much more extensive way. And I just would ask your office to look into this circumstance, and the more we can get these dollars out so that airports get these commitments honored would be very, very helpful. I don't know if you're familiar with this or have heard from other airports who've raised this concern, but --
Sec. Napolitano: No, Senator, no other airports have raised that concern, but I certainly will (look into it?).
Sen. Warner: If you could look into it -- the Richmond circumstance has been now hanging out for a number of years. We found a series of other airports. This was not a one-off circumstance, but it would be something I'd love to get some feedback on.
Secondarily, again, on a parochial basis, and -- but a airport that many of my colleagues fly in and out of, Dulles, where we went through an entire new passenger screening system and put in that -- but TSA's staffing shortages still make it -- we put in the new system. Staffing shortages are there so that folks are not being served in a timely manner. I don't know if that's kind of raised your radar screen as well, but I'd ask you to look into that circumstance as well. When a airport goes ahead and upgrades their system, they've got to make sure they've got personnel to go along with that.
Sec. Napolitano: Indeed. I'll be happy to look into that.
Sen. Warner: All right. One that -- a final point I wanted to raise -- and this is one that I know you would be -- will be sensitive to as a former governor, perhaps not completely applicable in terms of Arizona, but one of the things in terms of vessel escorts -- you know, the Coast Guard has been successfully partnering for a number of years with state and local law enforcement to do vessel escorts as we've come into ports. I know in our major part in Port Hampton Roads down in Norfolk literally 60 percent of the vessel escorts have not been provided by the Coast guard, but have been provided by state and local law enforcement as transports come in. State and local governments under enormous financial stress. And I'm just hoping that if this kind of ratio is maintained not only at Norfolk, but at other ports around the country, that next year's financial budgets at most state levels are going to be even worse than the last couple years, as you I know are well aware.
My hope would be that there could be some level of financial support still given to these state and local law enforcement areas that are clearly doing part of what would normally fall within the Coast Guard's responsibility to make sure that this very successful federal, local -- federal, state, local partnership in terms of vessel escorting is maintained.
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, yes, I'll be happy to flag that as well. That activity may already be covered under some of our existing grant programs. But I'll flag it as a concern.
Sen. Warner: We've heard concerns from, again, our local folks that they may be concerned, that they're not sure if they get cutbacks in their local and state budgets that they're going to be able to maintain this kind of partnership, and that would be to the detriment of all of us. So I appreciate your attention, and again, thanks to the chairman for holding this hearing.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Warner, and Senator Brownback.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary, welcome. Good to see you here. Look forward to continue working with you on the -- (inaudible) -- facility, and got through this year, and we'll be focusing on next year and continuing that program to build it and to get it up and running. Seems like to me the type of hearing that we're doing now lends itself to that much more credence for a program like that where you're trying to protect a domestic industry and do the research that's necessary to be able to protect against bioterrorism, agri-terrorism, and some other facilities and things.
I want to direct your attention to general aviation if I could. It's one of the main legs of the Kansas economy. It's really been decimated lately with this economy, hopefully starting to come back a little bit. The industry is very concerned about how it is -- then you regulate general aviation, and whether or not you're going to do it in such a fashion that it can no longer really provide the service that it needs to. GA flies -- 90 percent of the airports don't receive commercial flights. They only are reached by general aviation. And so there's a real convenience factor and there's a need, and yet if it's over regulated at a point that they can't provide that service in a small airport somewhere simply because of cost -- it's cost prohibitive, it shuts it down and it makes it less viable. I know you're aware of this. October, in 2008, there was a proposed rulemaking by TSA on the creation of a large aircraft security program intended to strengthen GA's security. There was a strenuous reaction from general aviation on that. I think --
Sec. Napolitano: That would be an accurate characterization.
Sen. Brownback: Good. I'm glad you got the message, 'cause -- they were deeply concerned about it at a time when already their sales and problems were mounting, and they constantly say just don't kill us, okay? I mean, yes, we need to do -- and we will work with you on common sense things we can do. They've put in writing seven areas of suggested improvements for that rulemaking. Identification of appropriate weight threshold is one that's key to them, possibility of a trusted pilot card, if you can look at that and review -- and a review of passenger watch list, matching procedures and prohibited items. That's another one. They've got several others, but the thing they need is that -- okay, let's have the balance here.
Security is the key thing, and we've got to provide the security. But if you do it in such a fashion that they just can't cost comply with it, you're just going to shut down a bunch of airport services because they just don't have the ability to match the cost of the security with providing the service into here, that it's only so much freight that it can carry. And I really hope you can work with the general aviation industry on this, 'cause it's just -- they view it as a life and death to them on the industry in the United States, whether or not they're going to be able to continue to serve these 90 percent of the markets that don't have commercial aviation.
I don't know if you have any thought or response to that. I would appreciate your thoughts on it.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, yes, and this was an area actually the chairman pointed out in his opening comments. It has been in a way -- when we look at vulnerability, risk, threat, general aviation is a concern, that an aircraft could be weaponized or used to bring something into the country. In terms of that, the comments that we have received from GA have been very useful. We have been very -- working very closely with that community. We've also been doing some reexamination of the modeling that was used, for example, on the weight threshold. The concern there, quite frankly, is what is the weight by which -- if an aircraft were to be flown again into a building, weaponized, how much fuel would be necessary to cause a building to implode, as we saw tragically on 9-11.
So they've been looking at remodeling on that and taking into account some of the concerns or information brought forth by the GA community. Also, in terms of -- how do you regulate who gets to fly these aircraft around the country because of the possibility of bringing in material that would be of danger? So I think that working with the GA community, taking into account their legitimate concerns about the industry and the airports and the transportation needs of the country, but also taking into account the very significant security issues. We're hoping to get to the right place.
Sen. Brownback: We need you to work with us if you can, 'cause it's an industry that's very dependent upon -- these make sensible sort of regulations that can work, but still let the industry be able to fly.
Sec. Napolitano: Indeed.
Sen. Brownback: Thanks. Thanks, chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Brownback.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome, Secretary Napolitano. In fact, one of my staff people witnessed your work at TSA firsthand as a screener. They said you did an excellent job.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you very much.
Sen. Snowe: I would like to address the issue of air cargo screening, and I know that the deadline for reaching 100 percent of screening of air cargo is scheduled for August of 2010. I'd like to have your reaction to the report that was issued last week by the department inspector general concerning air cargo screening, because it does, you know, raise some significant issues with respect to securing air cargo that, obviously, raises some significant concerns in terms of those deficiencies. At this point, you have said that more than 50 percent of air cargo has been screened. Is that correct, is being screened?
Sec. Napolitano: That is correct.
Sen. Snowe: Because it wasn't clear in the inspector general's report as to whether or not that had reached the 50 percent level. They also talked about the fact that their insufficient or lack of any background checks or training with respect to the personnel handling or accessing that cargo indicated -- and they didn't give the number -- of drivers we tested were -- handled or transporting air cargo without the required background checks. Also reviewed the drivers' records and identified that 23 percent did not satisfy the required training and testing requirements. So have you had a chance to review this report?
Sec. Napolitano: I have not personally read the entire report. I've read the summary of the report. I've met with TSA about the report, as well as other members of my staff. Many of the recommendations, or many of the concerns raised in it are things that we are working on right now, and I'll be happy to provide you with kind of a progress report as to where we stand, senator.
Sen. Snowe: Do you think it's possible to reach the 100 percent deadline, 100 percent of air cargo screening by August of 2010?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, we're at about 98 percent. We're going to be at about 98 percent, so I think that we'll be very close to it, yes.
Sen. Snowe: Even though the inspector general indicated that there were a lack of personnel. There's a shortage of TSA personnel in this regard.
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, again, subject to something that -- I know where I'm sitting here right now, but I believe we will be able to accomplish that.
Sen. Snowe: Yeah, the inspector general indicated -- and this has been a concern of ours, you know, obviously, since September 11th and the 9-11 Commission's recommendations on air cargo screening, and so it's one that has languished over the years. You know, we've been determined to close this loophole, and we're -- you know, we have mandated closing this loophole. So it really is important. And I know that there has been considerable progress made towards this, and we appreciate it, but we want to make sure that we stay on target. And so given these identifiable deficiencies, it does raise some concerns.
And the inspector general indicated as well that the process is focused on quantity rather than outcomes, ensuring corrective actions. And they, you know, indicate as a result the air cargo is vulnerable to the introduction of explosives and other destructive items before it's loaded onto planes, potentially creating risk for the traveling public.
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, yes, that's what the report says. We have made, I think even before the report was issued, significant progress on many of the things that are identified in there, because, as you know, reports often lag behind when the concerns were actually raised. And so we will be happy to provide you with a briefing on the status, but we are making great progress there.
Sen. Snowe: Okay. And I appreciate that. And one further point on this, because I think it's so essential. It indicates that "TSA is unable to properly identify and address vulnerabilities, which continue to occur year after year without an effective inspection process for ensuring compliance of air cargo." So it went on to say that "TSA misses opportunities to strengthen aviation security against the introduction of unauthorized explosives, incendiary and other destructive substances of items into aircraft cargo." So that's obviously quite serious.
Sec. Napolitano: No doubt. We have, again, some responses on that, but again, I think that the key point is are we moving to where there is 100 percent or close to it assurance of air cargo screening in the air environment? And the answer is we are making significant progress there. And we will continue to use -- that's going to continue to be a priority. And again, I look forward to the confirmation of the new TSA administrator. Obviously, having an administrator in place would be very helpful.
Sen. Snowe: Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Snowe.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Secretary Napolitano, thank you for being here and thank you for your hard work and dedication. I think the president chose well when he put you into this position, and your background and history and experience I'm sure has come into use every single day that you've been in this position. I think I could ask you questions all day. I think that is probably the result of a state that has something like 75 different ports, you know, 15 of them which are probably working ports for the interests that you care about, a border crossing at Blaine that is probably one of the busiest border crossings between U.S. and Canada in the country, and, obviously, many other related issues to that. So I'm going to try to get through these, and if you could --
Sec. Napolitano: I'll keep my answers short.
Sen. Cantwell: Thank you. The first one has to do with, obviously, the Border and Custom agents, which -- you know, we were very involved here in increasing the funding to the Northern border. We worked very hard as a delegation and a group of people to work on that for many years, and we were glad we got it. You may remember the Rasam case in which a Port Angeles border agent was able to stop Mr. Rasam, who was the millennium bomber who came through. So that was before we had the resources, and we're very well ware of the dangers there. But we've also had these incidents, and this weekend's paper I think it best. "Illegal immigrant gets $48,000 in lawsuit against border agents."
And so that's what's going on, that we have this -- I appreciate that Allen Versen (ph) visited the state, and so he's had a lot of meetings, and he's had a lot of discussions with our stakeholders, and we really appreciate that. But we just have a lot o the Border Patrol acting very far away from the border in plain clothes, catching people by surprise. In this case, the border agents, you know, in a plain car, plain clothes came up to these two individuals who were at a bus stop. Now, it's probably within that 150 miles from the border, but it definitely is not next to the border. It was in Mount Vernon, Washington, so a good -- you know, a good 45 minutes probably at least from the border.
And so what I'm asking is what steps are we taking to ensure that the border agents don't engage in racial profiling and that all the Department of Homeland Security agencies are targeting the most significant threats at the Northern borders?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, obviously, racial profiling is repugnant to the law, and we do not racially profile. And that is part of our training, it's part of our supervision, and it's part of the ethos. Secondly, a good border policy requires several things. It requires trained personnel on the ground who are properly supervised, it requires technology, and in some instances it requires infrastructure. And so both at the Northern and the Southern borders what we are about is having strategies for those borders that meet the fact that they're different types of borders, different terrain and all the rest, but nonetheless that combine in a strategic fashion those three elements.
Sen. Cantwell: Well, I think we need to continue to have dialogue in the Northwest of what's going because I think when we end up seeing lawsuits being settled against border agents I think we have issues here that we need to address, and we appreciate your cooperation in working on that. A second issue, if I could, is obviously that that U.S.-Canadian border is very important for shipping and we've had by colleagues talk about security and safety of cargo and container traffic. What are we doing to help ensure that all of North America adopts a regime for border security so that we don't have Asian traffic deciding to go to Canada because they can skip the regime that the United States sets up for border security, only to have that cargo travel all the way across the country and maybe enter, you know, someplace else that doesn't have that border security that you are establishing? So how do we get that North America regime established?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, if you're talking about, Senator, having almost like a perimeter policy around the continent, obviously that's somewhat difficult but I mean --
Sen. Cantwell: I'm saying there's billions of dollars of business -- of cargo container going in. We're probably, you know, 20 percent of all traffic coming from China. Now, if just up the road in Vancouver they decide they're not going to -- (inaudible) -- a security regime and it's cheaper and faster to go through Vancouver, all that traffic is going to go there and the U.S. is going to lose that transportation business. So what are we doing to help make sure that those ports adopt the same kind of regimes?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, I think, Senator, we are -- I am meeting regularly with my colleague -- my counterpart on the Canadian side -- as to what is necessary for security at those ports because there are certain things that are constants with respect to be it integrated port security, be it air security, be it land-border security. There are certain things that need to be done and need to be accomplished. But there are differences and there are very real differences between the two countries and I think part of that gets beyond my lane and gets into other departments in terms of negotiations as well.
Sen. Cantwell: Thank you. I see my time has expired, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Cantwell. Senator Klobuchar?
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for being here. I was just thinking of how full your plate is with H1N1 and the many other issues that you've had -- the Fort Hood shooting investigation and a lot of other ongoing changes with our security. So I thank you for your leadership and also the leadership you showed when we had the floods in the Red River Valley, which you remember involved not just North Dakota but Minnesota.
Sec. Napolitano: Minnesota.
Sen. Klobuchar: Very good.
Sec. Napolitano: Right across the river.
Sen. Klobuchar: Exactly. I'm actually going to mostly focus on the Secure Watch issue and some of the terrorist watch lists and the misidentifications on those lists but I wanted to start with one quick question about the Canadian baggage rescreening, and this is something that affects my state. We have a state-of-the-art airport and the requirement that checked luggage at appropriately-cleared Canadian airport facilities be rescreened before the transfer to a U.S.-based connecting flight it has frequently caused delayed connections for our passengers arriving (since?) Canada because their baggage has to be physically transported from the arrival. And I know that TSA has been working with Canadian authorities for well over a year to reach an agreement that could put in place new technologies for Canadian baggage screening that would meet our own United States security standards, and I wondered if you have any sense of when that agreement will be reached.
Sec. Napolitano: I know about the issue, I know about the discussions, and I don't know when they will come to a conclusion. But if, Senator, if you're asking me to see if I can prompt them to hurry up, I'll be happy to do so.
Sen. Klobuchar: That's a great answer. Thank you. The watch list redress problems -- one of my primary concerns -- and I get to know the TSA people very well at my airport and have had very good relations with them since I have a hip replacement so I talk to them every time I'm through the airport and they do a good job -- but my question was about the no-fly lists, and last year in response to reports that thousands of U.S. travelers experienced misidentifications each year I introduced legislation to require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a comprehensive cleared list for innocent (travels?). The implementation of the Secure Flight program has been underway for nearly a year now and TSA officials continue to stress that once the program is fully operational these misidentifications will be minimized, and you say in your testimony that 18 air carriers have successfully switch to Secure Flight and that testing is underway with an additional 27 air carriers. For the air carriers that have not fully switched to Secure Flight how are passengers being screened against the watch list? How do you think this is going? We're still, obviously, having some problems.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, Senator, if they're not in Secure Flight and, again, that is a successful program and I think it demonstrates how as our department matures but also as technology gets better and also as we get a better sense of what actually needs to be done and what's value added to security some of these things do get dealt with. But Secure Flight is going to cover the vast majority of passengers by the time of its full implementation. Right now, we're in that transitional status and those passengers that are not on a carrier that has moved over are still being measured the old-fashioned way but we've also implemented some computer software, for example, that helps us segregate out often misidentified names, misspellings of names, and things of that nature, and we have also worked to speed up the and make easier the appeal process so --
Sen. Klobuchar: Mm-hmm.
Sec. Napolitano: -- people can get de-watch listed.
Sen. Klobuchar: Right, and -- but one issue that still remains the Department of Homeland Security inspector general recently reported that passengers who encounter misidentifications and seek to use the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program -- named TRIP -- to clear these problems they said generally do not benefit from their participation in TRIP. Their cases often languish for extended periods of time. The IG made 24 recommendations and one of the main problems highlighted was that the cleared list of travelers who have gone through the TRIP process is used by airlines only sparingly to rule out false positives on the watch list.
You have to understand in our state we have a kid that was going to Disneyland who couldn't go -- he was like two years old -- because his name was on the watch list. So we've had a lot of concerns. We -- I think we have a lot of common names in Minnesota. We have a lot of Johnsons and things like that. So we continue to be concerned. So do you know what's happening with the IG's recommendations on the TRIP program?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator, let me get back to you on that. I know that we constantly are working to make those sorts of things more consumer friendly, more passenger friendly. But I'll get back to you specifically on that.
Sen. Klobuchar: All right. Thank you very much, again, and thank you for your leadership. Yield back.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator. Senator Udall?
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing. Good to see you here, Secretary Napolitano. We both share the Southwest as home and I think you're doing an excellent job with a very, very difficult department there to manage. I'd like in my time to hit a couple of areas -- one is Real ID and then the TSA approach to whole-body imaging.
As you know, more than 30 states including New Mexico are unlikely to meet the December 31st deadline to become materially compliant with the Real ID Act of 2005.
While I understand the administration would prefer to enact Pass ID Act in lieu of granting an additional extension, the uncertainty surrounding what your department may or may not do if the legislation is not signed into law is creating confusion for people in the state that are not in compliance. This is -- and I'm sure you've heard a lot about this too -- this is causing a great deal of anxiety with the constituents who are seeing news reports they'll need a passport in order to travel on a commercial airline in the U.S. after the 1st of the year. I believe Senator Bingaman and I sent you a letter on this issue on Monday. Will you commit now to extending the deadline for compliance with Real ID if Congress has not addressed the issue by December 31st?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, Senator, thank you, and yes, I -- here is the problem. Congress passed Real ID as a footnote in an appropriations bill and that did not have the benefit of hearings nor consultation with the states, which caused vast revolt among the states of which Arizona was one, and so we went and worked with the governors on a bipartisan basis to fix Real ID and that gave birth to a piece of legislation known as Pass ID. It has been through committee. It's been marked up. It is ready for floor action. It deals with a lot of the issues that -- it solves the governors' problems with Real ID.
I would -- before I get to the question of extensions, one of the reasons we had Real ID and now Pass ID is because the 9/11 commission had a recommendation that we improve the security quality of driver's licenses, and because Real ID has been rejected by the states just by granting extension after extension after extension we're not getting to the pathway to have more secure driver's licenses. Pass ID helps us meet the 9/11 commission recommendations and at the same time addresses issues that were legitimately raised by the states. And so what I would prefer to urge the Senate to do and use the -- this hearing as an opportunity to really urge it to do is to move to floor action and move Pass ID through so we can get it over to the House. I think it could go very quickly over there and we could solve this issue, as opposed to extension after extension, which not only doesn't deal with the 9/11 commission recommendation but it's just another year of uncertainty.
Sen. Udall: Yeah. Well, as you are probably aware, the situation that we're in now -- we have health care on the floor -- where if tried to move to anything else I think it would make it much more difficult procedurally. So I think if -- I don't see us getting to Pass ID on the Senate floor between now and the end of the year. So I think it would be very helpful for you to issue a statement -- you might use this as an opportunity to do it -- to assure people that after December 31st they will be able to travel with something other than a passport. I don't know if you want to do that at this point but if you decline that's fine.
Sec. Napolitano: I think I will not accept that invitation at this point in time.
Sen. Udall: Okay. Okay. Thank you. I probably don't have enough time to get you to answer the question but on whole-body imaging let me just lay it out a little bit here. You're -- TSA's greatly expanding its use of whole-body imaging for primary passenger screening at airports, and Albuquerque is one of the airports where it's doing that. And although TSA has voluntarily taken certain measures to protect passenger privacy, I believe several serious questions should be answered before TSA deploys these whole-body imaging machines more widely, and one of the issues really is if you decline the machine you get a full-body pat down, and as you can see, that could -- you either one of the other -- that could be very intrusive. So I -- I'm going to submit the questions to you because my time is up and I know the chairman may want to get to other senators here. But I hope that you'll give us a prompt response on that.
Sec. Napolitano: Right, and Senator, in the airports I've been at observing how that technology is used and there's been a -- that technology is much different than as portrayed in the press. But in any event, it hasn't been a pat down but you go through the standard magnetometer process. So -- but we'll be happy to answer the questions that you have.
Sen. Udall: We'll get you all that information. Thank you very much. Thanks for your service.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Udall. Madame Secretary, I'm going to ask you a question, which you can't answer but you want to, desperately. But --
Sec. Napolitano: Okay.
Sen. Rockefeller: -- but you can't because OMB won't let you. Okay. I'll just -- I'd catch your attention by -- (inaudible) -- okay.
Sec. Napolitano: Yes, you have.
Sen. Rockefeller: The -- to me, one of the most enormous problems of your extraordinarily important agency -- I mean, the president spoke last night and he kept coming back to (what?) the economy I really want to build is my country's economy and he really had to do that -- and I (sort of ?) wanted him to say, and by the way, in protecting security we really need to do much more with the Department of Homeland Security, give it more resources. I think it's one of the great anomalies and, frankly, embarrassments to us in the Congress and to -- (inaudible) -- that they have underfunded you. I mean, everybody loves to pick on FEMA or whatever is going on, but often the reason is or they give you they say you got to have 100 percent container scanning, air cargo, maritime cargo, you know, and then 10,000 more rules and regulations have to pour out of your organization. And it's just -- it's an awful way and you are responsible in so many ways for our national security.
I mean, the intelligence people aren't; you are. They're meant to provide information, and you have your own intelligence folks.
But you need money -- and the question I want to ask you is how much money do you need? And what do you need it for to be able to do what you are required to do, and what you want to do? You'll never get another question so wonderful as that.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Let me just address it in the following fashion, which is to say one of the things that I have set about to do as the secretary is to identify the major mission areas of the department, to align our budget request with those major mission areas. And to create a longer-term vision for the Department, through the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review process.
Congress asked us to complete that QHSR by December 31. We are on track to do so. But here's the -- the major mission areas of the 22 agencies that were combined really involve counterterrorism, securing the air, land and sea borders, immigration enforcement while we work for immigration reform; and preparation for, and the ability to respond to disasters of any type -- natural disasters.
And what we have been about doing is prioritizing under each of those and aligning our budget request accordingly. And I hope --
Sen. Rockefeller: Madame Secretary, I know what you're doing. I applaud you for it, but it's not helpful. I mean, you're laying out your priorities. And what I would say is that you're then applying totally inadequate resources to your priorities because you don't have any choice. And you can't say much because OMB vets your testimony as they do with any cabinet secretary and way on down too. And most people don't know that, that you can't speak your mind.
Well, I don't want to get you fired. But I really do want Homeland Security to have the money it needs. And at some point, maybe we'll have -- maybe you can leave a private letter and stick it under my office door or something. But it counts to us; it counts so that we can put pressure on appropriators to be helpful to you. I'll just leave it there because you're in an impossible situation.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: I did not want to leave Senator Brownback's -- you know, if you do any regulation of general aviation, the business that will collapse. I just can't let that pass. General, I think you mentioned 90 percent of airports in Kansas or whatever it was were small airports. And therefore, the use of general aviation is convenient. Yes, it certainly is convenient, it's probably convenient to a lot of people who are running drugs and running guns, and all kinds of things. But we can't do anything to increase their screening.
Again, out at Dulles, the idea of walking through something which -- a machine that that lady I guess walked through, who crashed the White House party the other night. They don't even have them out there. They don't even have them. So at any given moment, two-thirds of the airplanes in the air are general aviation. They get all of this attention from air traffic control, just as much as any commercial air passenger.
And yes, Kansas makes a lot of general aviation aircraft. But there is also the question of national security of them -- you pointed that out. They could have fuel on them; they could have run into buildings. I'm pointing out that they could be running drugs, they could be running guns. And we don't know about it. And so, we can't touch them. They're untouchable because if you touch them, they call up all the senators and congressmen who ride on their general aviation things; and say don't you dare do anything with it. And that's exactly the way it works.
I mean, I tried to put a 25 cent per trip tax on them last year to help pay for our air traffic control system. That got four inches down the football field. The telephone calls just squashed it immediately. And at some point, this becomes just a little bit more than annoying when they become somehow sacred because they're fragile. They're not fragile, they're doing vey well.
Whether they're doing well or not, is secondary to the national security concerns that you would have; and that I certainly do have about them. And I just wondered if you would comment on that.
Sec. Napolitano: Well senator, as I suggested to Senator Brownback, the security issues involving GA, general aviation, need to be addressed. There was a proposed rule. It had a strong reaction from that community. We have worked with that community. We are in the process of finalizing that rule.
But I agree with you, that when I look at the overall kind of vulnerabilities and threats involving threats to the homeland; particularly with respect to the larger, general aviation aircraft there are security interests that must be protected. And we are moving to do just that.
Sen. Rockefeller: How do you do that? They resist that.
Sec. Napolitano: We do it by -- through the regulatory process, and we do it --
Sen. Rockefeller: Then, how come I don't see it?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, because we haven't finished the rule yet. But we will be doing it through a variety of mechanisms.
Sen. Rockefeller: I advise you to be bold. My time has run out.
Sen. Hutchison: Thank you.
I wanted to go back to the border wait times. This is something that I know you are familiar with as well, having been the governor of Arizona. And my question is how can you address the border wait times; because there are trucks backed up for miles, taking hours to get through? Because it does make a difference in commerce, and people being willing to come across. How are you going to address it keeping security in mind as well as efficiency of commerce on our land borders?
Sec. Napolitano: Well, a couple of things. First of all, between Fiscal Year '08 and Fiscal Year '09, we actually saw a reduction in wait times, according to the data I have, a 12.3 percent reduction. And the wait times for commercial trucks, and I think that's what you're focused on, Senator, went from in '08 10.6 minutes to 9.3 minutes on the U.S. side of the border.
Where the wait times can add up is on the Mexican side of the border. And so, working with Mexico, they are now establishing their own customs capacity on that side of the border, which I think will do a great deal to resist. Because as you know, when you go through a land port, you're actually going through two borders. You're going through the Mexican side and the U.S. side. So the U.S. side, the wait times have gone down; and I think will continue to go down with our greater use of technology.
Sen. Hutchison: I really am referring to the Mexican side, because that affects so many of our border retailers. And it's commercial, but it's also people who will shop --
Sec. Napolitano: In those areas, indeed. And so, Mexico is now developing its own customs agency and deploying them to the border, which they really had not had before. As well as, as we build out our ports on the northern side of the border, we are working with them to build their infrastructure to match our ports so that they're paired up appropriately.
Sen. Hutchison: So, we do have an ongoing effort to work, to coordinate better the Mexican side with our side. So that we can get some of those wait times down for commerce.
Sec. Napolitano: Yes.
Sen. Hutchison: Okay. It's a big deal on our border. It must have been in Arizona as well. Because border retailers on our side, get a lot of business from that land traffic. And if you have to wait an hour or two, or more sometimes, it's a problem.
Is there something we need to do to increase further customs and also coordination because there has been a complaint that's ongoing for a long time of coordination of just working hours between DEA, Customs and Border Patrol? So that sometimes, one group is off in a coffee break, while the other group is on, but you have to have all of them. And is there an effort in your department to address that kind of coordination to better utilize our resources?
Sec. Napolitano: Senator that coordination should already be occurring, under the direction of who ever is the manager of the port. If you have a specific instance or a specific port where you are getting reports that that is not happening, I hope you would let me know about it; and we will follow-up.
Sen. Hutchison: Okay. I will do that. Thank you very much.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you Senator Hutchison.
Sen. Cantwell: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you for allowing me to ask a second round of questions.
And Secretary Napolitano, again thank you for your service and all your hard work. I'd like to submit a question if I could to you about semi-submersible vehicles that are being used in the drug trade. And my understanding is and growing in numbers.
I don't know if we've thought about that as it relates to security, since these are one-way vessels and they can be used for drugs; they could be used for other things. But I'm going to submit that for the record and maybe get an answer from you.
But I'd like to bring up two specific cases that have been really receiving national attention and see if I can get your help on that. The first is Ernesto Gamboa. He was an individual who served as a confidential informant, and for the past 14 years assisted law enforcement in the dismantling of large and dangerous drug operations.
He frequently put himself at risk. He worked with the Washington State Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DEA and INS, and with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs, ICE. So his cooperation was critical to the success of federal prosecutors in seizing hundreds of pounds of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as large seizures of money and weapons.
During all the time that he was cooperating with law enforcement over that time period, he was promised that he would get help with his immigration status. But instead, in July he was detained by ICE and placed on removal, despite all of the good work that he had been doing previously for these various agencies.
And so I'm expressing concern over this case because he's kind of in limbo. He can't work because he doesn't have paperwork, and he can't get -- if he is returned to El Salvador, I'm sure he will likely be killed. And so if we don't help the Gamboas, who have been the informants for us, how are we going to recruit other people to helping us with finding drug traffickers and criminals? And so I would, you know, ask for your help in this case in understanding what we should do with Mr. Gamboa.
Sec. Napolitano: I'll be happy to look into it. This goes to the intersection between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, where the Department of Justice, DEA, doesn't have authority to make immigration representations. Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle. DEA needs to bring ICE in, or vice versa sometimes. So I think that illustrates perhaps what is happening with Mr. Gamboa. I'll be happy to look into the situation.
Sen. Cantwell: Thank you.
The second one is a case, Alonso Chehade, who -- you know, we talked about this border issue in my first round of questioning, and Senator Murray and I have asked you for the removal of Alonso Chehade until the end of the 11th Congress. He is a case that would be -- if the DREAM Act was law, he would obviously have the relief of that legislation. But he's a 22-year-old Peruvian national who resides -- who's resided in the United States since childhood. And earlier this year, he literally took a wrong turn on I-5 and was detained when he accidentally crossed into Canada. And so now he faces deportation.
He graduated from high school with honors, attended Olympic Community College, earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, and so it's generated a lot of media attention in our state. And so I'm hoping that we can defer action on his case until the 111th Congress to see if we can get the DREAM Act passed, and so maybe Mr. Chehade, who has come to the United States as a child, not of his own doing, but has now been through our whole education system, will, not because he took a wrong turn on a freeway, be able to stay in the United States.
Sec. Napolitano: I think his removal will be or has been deferred. I will double-check on that, Senator. But the situation you describe illustrates why President Obama is eager to have the Congress take up the whole issue of immigration and immigration reform. These situations happen in my department every day, day in and day out.
Sen. Cantwell: Well, I appreciate that, and I appreciate you looking into this further. I think he's gotten a temporary deferral, but I think that'll run out in January.
Sec. Napolitano: That may be right. I'll take a look.
Sen. Cantwell: If you could, thank you.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you, Senator Cantwell.
Senator McCaskill may be on her way. In the meantime, I have one more question to ask.
Are you okay on time?
Sec. Napolitano: I'm fine.
Sen. Rockefeller: Okay. This is cybersecurity. And this doesn't appear to be a very important question, but it is to me. Again, I go back to George Bush's director of National Intelligence, Barack Obama's director of National Intelligence, citing the number one threat to this country is not al Qaeda. It's not dirty bombs. It is cybersecurity -- huge importance, more or less ignored by the press, a somewhat disinterested public in that because they can't wrap around those two words. And you have some responsibility for that. Now, my question is very specific, and you may not want to answer it, but I want to tell you how I feel about it. You all had a big conference and you decided that you'd get somebody who would report -- to be responsible for cybersecurity, but report to the National Security Council and to the National Economic Council, to which I say goodbye focus on cybersecurity. I mean, I've been through that trip before. I've seen what happens. It just -- you know, by the time the Pentagon takes their chunk, you know, it won't work.
Senator Snowe and I are working on legislation. We'd like to work with you on it. We say that there ought to be somebody who reports only to the president. Now, there's that part of this -- "Oh, there's another czar," to which I would say, "Well, if that's another czar, then that's the one you want to have," because that's the number one national-security threat to our country, and will remain so.
People have no idea what they can do. They read about it. It hasn't happened in their community, so they forget about it and go on and concentrate on al Qaeda and Taliban and, you know, all kinds of things, but not on cybersecurity, which is the main threat.
So I want to say to you that I feel very strongly that there ought to be somebody who reports directly to the president, has that responsibility, who doesn't try to mix the military, the intelligence and the National Economic Council, because he'll wander off into nothing being done or money not being spent.
I think when you have somebody who reports to the president, it's like the Office of Science & Technology. That's not an -- Dr. John Holdren is not an agency. He's a free floater. He can walk in and out of the Oval Office any time he wants. But he's doing science and technology, which just affects everything we do in our country, including cybersecurity.
Sec. Napolitano: Indeed.
Sen. Rockefeller: And I think that -- I think we ought to have somebody who reports to the president. I want to say that loudly and clearly to you. You don't have to respond if you don't want to that view. I think the idea of having a lesser (statute?) with a more diverse number of bosses is a very bad idea and that we won't make progress, because it's the one area of national security where the public really isn't there yet. The press isn't there. They're not interested.
It's yesterday's news story. Somebody hacks into something and then you get two or three days and it's gone. And it's a terrible threat, terrible thing to do to this nation. So I want to make that statement. If you'd care to respond to it, I'd be happy. But that's what our legislation is going to say.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I'd be happy to work with you on that legislation. I think your assessment of cybersecurity as a threat is an accurate one. I would be happy to brief you and your staff on the extensive efforts we have taken within DHS to deal with the civilian side of government and the protection of that, the .gov side, as well as our interaction with the private sector.
You know, 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the country is in the hands of the private sector, and they're totally network-dependent. You think of utilities, water companies. And I could go on and on and on. I know you understand what I'm addressing.
And so we have been involved in a series of critical infrastructure meetings over the last two months, myself included, with the private sector with respect to their own network security and how we work together to improve that. So I couldn't agree with you more about the severity and nature of the threat, and I think it is going to be part of our ongoing threat environment.
Sen. Rockefeller: I think the private sector will be helpful, but I have to -- and this is not really quite fair of me, but about 10 years ago I was worried about that and generally about power plants and chemical plants that had backed up to the Ohio River. And if you go between Pittsburgh and the Allegheny River down to Cincinnati, that's about 200 miles, or maybe it's 300 miles; I have no idea, but it's a long way.
And there are hundreds and hundreds of power plants and chemical plants, and three Coast Guard cutters that have, you know, machine guns on the front, heavy machine guns -- three. They can't go 24 hours a day, so that means there's an average of one every eight hours to patrol all of the Ohio River. This is what I'm talking about when I say please ask me, do you need more money for that, because it obviously can't do the job.
Anyway, I got them together and I said, "You've got to improve your security. You're backed up against the water. That's exactly where the terrorists will come at you. If you're a power plant, you have these big cooling things. They can drop things into that." There's the way for chemical companies to be blown up. I mean, we've had incidents in West Virginia that had nothing to do with terrorism. They were just accidents. And they're just massively threatening.
And so they agreed to do something. And then they -- this is slightly cynically put, but it's the way they look at it -- they came back a year later and they said that they'd given everybody who admits people into the workspace -- that is, where their cars pass through -- a sidearm. Well, of course, that's the opposite side of the plant. The river is on the other side of the plant. It has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.
So to the extent that the private sector is willing to be helpful on something like cybersecurity or other forms of security, it always makes me just a little bit suspicious, because, as Senator Brownback said, it costs. And everybody's feeling very fragile and everybody is very fragile, but this is -- you know, this is the big one as far as the director of national intelligence says.
I don't know if you have any comments.
Sec. Napolitano: Our interactions on the cyber side with the private sector to date have been, I think, very productive. And perhaps it's because the economic costs of a major denial of service attack or a virus is substantial enough that there are incentives there for everyone to work together.
But this is an evolving field; it's an ever-changing threat environment. And again, it's something that I think we will be dealing with for months and years to come.
Sen. Rockefeller: Okay. Yeah. Well, it appears that Senator McCaskill will not be coming. So I will --
Sec. Napolitano: You want to --
Sen. Rockefeller: Use her time.
Sec. Napolitano: Okay.
Sen. Rockefeller: So bear with me one more time.
Can you please walk me through the challenges that you face as you attempt to implement 100 percent scanning requirement? And I have these photographs.
And you know, I'm talking now about maritime. Air -- I mean, water cargo containers. And some of them, you know, everybody in the House wants them scanned -- 100 percent. You're doing about 5 percent, I think. And some of them, there has to be more than that.
For example, just to pick out Home Depot. I mean, maybe every -- probably every Tuesday at about seven different ports around the country, massive cargo containers of lumber come in. And that's predictable -- totally predictable. Thinking somebody hides something inside -- a dirty bomb inside that -- and does that require scanning? Then you have -- things are wrapped in plastic and then they have wrapped in metal. And they have locks and people say, well, that's good, except you can blow up the locks. Well, to blow up the locks, I think, would probably be a fairly noticeable event. And so help me understand your view of what you can responsibly and should responsibly do and what you should not cost effectively and potentially responsibly do?
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Well, I'd begin by saying that we should not believe that 100 percent scanning equates to 100 percent security. And that is because, as I mentioned before, the 100 percent scanning rule only focuses on one method of delivery and in one place. And there are numerous methods of delivery in numerous places. And so that is why we really have to take a more nuanced -- nuanced is probably not the right word -- but a layered, risk-based approach to these issues.
But, for example, the technology really isn't currently available. To name just one problem: We have a high rate of false positives. The logistical challenges and costs of deploying --
Sen. Rockefeller: Is it because the technology's insufficient or because it reads and confuses?
Sec. Napolitano: It reads and -- it reads and confuses. You have a high level of false positives. The speed of the through-port is very slow. You have lack of adequate anomaly detection. You have -- even if you had a good technical system, recognize that you're dealing with 700 different ports around the world. Having an adequately trained work force and the maintenance of these systems is an issue.
You've got a trade issue. Most -- many countries around the world are very -- not just resistant to, but in some respects almost offended by the notion that we would install -- you know, require this at their port in their country. So you have to negotiate each of those agreements separately. So there's always the possibility of a retaliatory type of approach.
There's the additional cost to the shipping system. There was a study done recently in the EU that this could add as much as 10 percent to shipping cost, which in an era of a fragile global economy is a significant add-on.
So I hope that gives you some of the picture of the difficulty that we have implementing 100 percent scanning rule.
Sen. Rockefeller: It's very helpful. And I asked that question, actually, because it was so important that Senator McCaskill get there. Therefore, I had to tread water as best as I could. So she can now ask a couple of absolutely brilliant questions.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, I'm glad you asked it, because I studied my answer really hard.
Sen. Rockefeller: Senator McCaskill.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate you holding the hearing open until I had a chance to get here. I was over in Armed Services as we were dealing with the president's speech on Afghanistan last night and it took awhile for me to get my questioning done there.
I wanted to briefly bring up with you, Secretary Napolitano, something that I have been working on for a number of years now and that is foreign repair stations as it relates to airline maintenance.
I know this is not necessarily in your lane, but in the long run, it needs to be on your radar -- pardon the pun --
Sec. Napolitano: Mm-hmm.
Sen. McCaskill: Because we have increasingly in this country turned to foreign repair stations for not just kicking the tires, but significant maintenance and repair work for our domestic airline industry.
FAA -- it is from the many different hearings in this room we have figured out we're not really sure we certify certain repair stations, that we allow non-certified repair stations to do the work. We're not really sure why we don't have the same kind of standards at foreign repair stations in terms of background checks, in terms of perimeter security.
And I bring it up to you, because I think this is something that we could benefit from you -- your people taking a look at this. We have foreign repair stations doing significant work on some of our airlines in countries that were on the State Department's terrorist watch list.
So meanwhile, I -- with a smile on my face -- get wanded every time I get on an airplane, because I have one artificial knee and they go through my mom's stuff, because she has two artificial knees. We have repair work -- significant repair work being done in places around the globe where I don't think the American people would be comfortable with the level of security and oversight that we're providing them.
And I wanted to bring it up to you, because it's something that I'd worked on and I know we haven't had a chance to visit about it before, but would like your reaction to that and whether or not you think that some of your obligation, as it relates to homeland security, could reach out to at least do an assessment, in your view, whether or not this is something we should be worried about.
Sec. Napolitano: Well, thank you, Senator. And the foreign repair issue really reveals something, which I say often, which is that homeland security does not begin at the borders of the United States. You really have to think of it in a global context and then bring it home, so to speak.
On November the 18th of this year -- so just a few weeks ago -- we issued an actual notice of proposed rulemaking on foreign repair stations. And it builds on the certification requirements that the FAA uses. But it would require such things as making -- requiring that they be open to audits by the Department of Homeland Security on a random and surprise basis. It requires certain types of recordkeeping. It requires certain types of -- other types of checks in the stations themselves.
The comment period on the notice, I think, closes -- I want to say the third week of January. So it is something that has occupied our attention and we're moving forward in that fashion.
Sen. McCaskill: That is terrific.
I know you've got to go and I appreciate you sticking around till I got here.
I also do want to bring up -- I am hopeful that you all are looking at the security Clearinghouse contracting issue as it relates to a re-compete. Those costs have gone up. I'm sure you're aware a security check has risen from $3 a head to $27 a head. For many of our airports that are struggling right now in this economy, it has gotten to be a very expensive proposition.
And I know you all -- TSA has not gone on record yet affirming that it will open the contract to competition, but I wanted to go on record as saying I'm hopeful that you all will move towards a competitive contract as quickly as possible. I think this has been a sole source for way too long and I think we're paying more than we need to pay.
Sec. Napolitano: Duly noted.
Sen. McCaskill: Thank you very much.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you. Senator McCaskill.
And you have an appointment and a flight to catch. I totally thank you for being here. It's very important to us as a committee. We respect what you're doing and we want to be your partner.
Sec. Napolitano: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to be here today.
Sen. Rockefeller: Thank you. The hearing is adjourned.