Full Committee Hears Testimony on Safety of American people.
Homeland Security Select Committee Chairman Christopher Cox
(R-CA) held a hearing today for the purpose of gaining authoritative
answers to the vital questions about the safety of the American
people. Chairman Cox made the following statement today as he
welcomed the testimony of Homeland Security Department Secretary
The Committee welcomes Secretary Tom Ridge for his testimony
on the progress the Department of Homeland Security has made since
he was sworn in as its first leader on January 24, and on two
initiatives designed to improve America's readiness in case of
another terrorist attack: Operation Liberty Shield, and TopOff
It has been 116 days since Gov. Ridge became Secretary. It has
been exactly 80 days since the majority of the agencies that make
up the Department of Homeland Security -- including Customs, the
Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, TSA, and FEMA -- officially joined
the Department. Measured in bureaucratic terms, 80 days is the
blink of an eye. But in the real war against terrorists who would
destroy the United States, 80 days is a deadly serious long time.
Your presence here this morning, Mr. Secretary, is requested
so that Congress and this Committee can get authoritative answers
to the questions that are so vitally important to every American:
How safe are we?
How far has the Department come in fulfilling the mandate of
Congress to establish this new Department?
What has become of the billions of dollars Congress has appropriated
since Sept. 11, 2001, for anti-terrorism, homeland security technology,
overseas operations, and first responders? How has Liberty Shield
increased the protections for America's citizens and infrastructure?
And, what have we learned after $16 million and the energies
of over 8,000 people from 100 federal, state and local agencies
were invested in the simulated terrorist attacks on Chicago and
Last week, Chicago was "attacked" by terrorists using pneumonic
plague as a weapon. The panic and death that spread rapidly throughout
the city were compounded by a disaster at Midway Airport, when
a medical helicopter crashed into a plane full of passengers as
it made an emergency landing. Two hundred victims littered the
In Seattle's scenario, 150 people were "injured" by the explosion
Monday, and 92 were taken to hospitals. Rescuers sought 20 people
believed to have been buried in the rubble created by the blast
and two were reported killed.
About 40 miles south of Seattle, participants at Pacific Lutheran
University near Tacoma acted out a simultaneous attack on the
campus, where a smoke bomb was set off to simulate a car bomb.
This exercise generated many questions:
Those participating in the exercise were given advanced notice
of many of the details of the planned crises. Critics of the exercise
argue that this made the exercise ineffective. Does the Secretary
believe that this exercise was still a useful exercise? Will future
exercises leave more uncertainty for the participants to confront?
Press reports indicated that there were capacity problems in
Chicago's hospitals. Is this true? If so what contingency plans
are being put in place?
Media reports indicated that the government had trouble quickly
putting in place a system that could reliably track the radioactive
plume from the supposed dirty bomb. What is being done to address
These are just a few of the questions I hope the Secretary will
Mr. Secretary, we appreciate the fact that you have submitted
extensive written testimony for the record concerning the achievements
of the Department during 2003. We invite you to summarize for
the Committee, with particular emphasis on those portions of your
testimony concerning the lessons learned thus far from Liberty
Shield and TopOff 2. We recognize that the 22 agencies comprising
the Department have wide-ranging responsibilities, such as response
to snowstorms, seizing illegal drugs, and icebreaking to keep
commerce flowing in the Great Lakes, but our time here is limited
and necessarily we must focus on the purpose of today's hearing.
With that, we are happy to have you here, Mr. Secretary. We
look forward to your presentation.
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