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Oral testimony of DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke for a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing titled “World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure in the New Age of Terror”

Release Date: 
November 30, 2017

Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Thompson, and distinguished members of the Committee:

It is my honor to testify on behalf of the men and women of DHS, who shield our nation from threats every single day, often times in increasingly dangerous environments. 

We were reminded of that this past week when we lost Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez in the line of duty. I truly appreciate, and know our country appreciates, his service and sacrifice.

While we do not know for certain the circumstances of his death – we do know that he courageously chose a dangerous job with DHS because it is so important to our nation’s security.

When his father was asked why his son chose the Border Patrol his son told him “I want to defend my country from terrorists … I want to prevent terrorists and drugs from coming into the country.”  And he loved his job. 

I want to begin by noting that right now the terror threat to our country equals, and in many ways exceeds, the period around 9/11. 

We are seeing a surge in terrorist activity because the fundamentals of terrorism have changed. 

Our enemies are crowd-sourcing their violence online and promoting a “do it yourself” approach that involves using any weapons their followers can get their hands on. 

We saw this just last month right here on our own soil when a terrorist killed and wounded pedestrians in New York City using a rented vehicle.

But New Yorkers rallied, and they refused to be intimidated by this heinous attack.

I also want to make clear today that DHS is not standing on the sidelines as these threats proliferate.  And we will not allow frequent terrorism to become the new normal. 

The primary international terror threat facing our country is from global jihadist groups.  However, the Department is also focused on the threat of domestic terrorism.  Ideologically-motivated violence here in the United States is a danger to our nation, our people, and our values.  

We are tackling the overall terror threat to the United States head-on and in two ways. 

First, we are rethinking homeland security for a new age. 

There is no longer a “home game” and an “away game.”  The line is blurred, and the threats are connected across borders. 

That’s why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action like never before.

Second, we are raising the bar of our security posture across the board to keep dangerous individuals and goods from entering the United States.

That includes building a wall on the southwest border and cracking down on transnational criminal organizations that bring drugs, violence, and other threats into our communities. 

Illegal immigration puts our communities and country at risk, which is why our border security strategy is multi-layered and includes robust interior enforcement operations to deter and prevent illegal entry. 

We are also strengthening everything from traveler screening to information sharing. 

We now require all foreign governments to share critical data with us on terrorists and criminals—and to help us confidently identify their nationals.

We must know who is coming into our country and make sure they do not pose a threat.  That is why I recommended—and the President approved—tough but tailored restrictions against countries that pose a risk and which are not complying with our requirements. 

And we are trying to stay a step ahead of emerging threats.

We are planning next to launch a new Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction next week, to consolidate and elevate DHS efforts to guard against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.

Separately, our Global Aviation Security Plan is making it harder for terrorists to target U.S.-bound aircraft with concealed explosives or by using corrupted insiders.

At the same time, we are rededicating ourselves to terrorism prevention to keep terrorists from radicalizing our people.  And our newly reorganized Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships will lead the charge.

Finally, we have stepped up DHS efforts to protect soft targets, which will not only help better defend our country against terrorists but against tragedies like we have witnessed in Las Vegas and Texas.

Americans are also alarmed by the spike in cyber attacks.

Our adversaries continue to develop advanced capabilities online.  They seek to undermine our critical infrastructure, target our livelihoods, steal our secrets, and threaten our democracy. 

That is why DHS is engaging with Congress on legislation that would establish a new operating component dedicated to our cybersecurity mission. 

On behalf of the entire Department, I appreciate the critical role this committee plays in helping us execute our mission, and I want to thank this Committee for passing a reauthorization bill for our Department earlier this year and look forward to working with the  Senate as they move their bill through the process.

I want to thank the men and women of DHS for their dedication and courage.  And I want to thank you on the committee for supporting our people.

Last Published Date: January 20, 2021
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