Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered the following testimony at a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security on Threats to the Homeland.
Chairman Green, Ranking Member Thompson, distinguished members of this committee:
In September, the Department of Homeland Security published the 2024 Homeland Threat Assessment, laying out the most direct, pressing threats to our security. Already, in the weeks since the assessment was published, the world has changed. Hamas terrorists horrifically attacked thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Israel on October 7, brutally murdering, wounding, and taking hostages of all ages. In the days and weeks since, we have responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities and institutions across our country. Hate directed at Jewish students, communities, and institutions add to a preexisting increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.
As the last month has shown, the threat environment our Department is charged with confronting has evolved and expanded constantly in the 20 years since our founding after 9/11.
Today, individuals radicalized to violence can terrorize using a vehicle or a firearm. A transnational criminal organization needs only to conceal 2.2 pounds of fentanyl in a commercial truck or passenger car crossing through our land port of entry to kill as many as half a million people. Lone actors and nation-states such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China can use computer code to steal sensitive personal information, shut down critical infrastructure, and extort millions in ransom payments. Compromising deepfake images can exploit and ruin the life of a young person. Extreme heat, wildfires, and devastating hurricanes are increasing in frequency and severity. And our Department’s founding rationale – the threat posed by foreign terrorists using weapons of mass destruction – remains.
The 260,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security work every day to mitigate these threats and many more. I am immensely proud to be here today on their behalf – to discuss the work they do, the challenges they face, and most importantly, the support they require from Congress to do their jobs. Thank you for the opportunity to do so.
I would like to focus today on two such means of critical, urgent support.
First, Congress must not allow key DHS authorities to lapse.
Our Department’s authority to implement the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards expired on July 28. That means the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is barred from inspecting over 3,000 high-risk chemical facilities, including one in Shepherd, Texas, where an explosion last week forced nearby communities to shelter-in-place for hours. We are also barred from identifying who is accessing them and whether they are stockpiling dangerous chemicals. Historically, more than a third of inspections identify at least one gap in a facility’s security.
Our counter-drone authority will expire on Saturday, challenging, among other missions, the Secret Service’s ability to protect the President and Vice President and Customs and Border Protection’s ability to patrol the Southwest Border and intercept cartel drones ferrying drugs and other contraband through the air.
Our Department’s Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction authority will expire on December 21. That would hinder our ability to detect biological and illicit nuclear material threats, and safeguard against the use of AI in the development of biological weapons, as President Biden charged us with doing last month in his Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence.
Finally, key elements of our intelligence collection authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will expire on December 31. Expiration would leave our country vulnerable to attacks supported by American citizens, and it would cripple our ability to identify and secure American citizens who are the targets of such attacks.
Renewing each of these four authorities is common-sense, bipartisan, and critical to our national security. This is not a moment to let our guard down.
Second, we need Congress to allocate sufficient resources to enable our nation’s frontline officers to carry out their difficult jobs and keep the American people safe.
Last month, our Administration requested critical, supplemental homeland security funding that would help us do just that. This funding package would allow us to more effectively combat the scourge of fentanyl, stem the impacts of historic migration, and accelerate work authorization for eligible noncitizens. This funding will, in short, make a critical difference in our Department’s operational capacity and in our national security.
Ensuring the safety of the American people is a national imperative and a governmental obligation. I look forward to partnering with Congress to deliver for the men and women who keep our country safe. I look forward to working with you to address the threats and challenges America faces today, and in the years to come. Thank you – and I look forward to your questions.