The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks prompted one of the greatest reorganizations the federal government has seen since World War II and brought to light a number of vulnerabilities within our national security apparatus. In 2003, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which consolidated 22 diverse agencies and bureaus into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a mandate of preventing and responding to natural and man-made disasters. In reaction to these reforms, the Senate reorganized the Governmental Affairs Committee to include additional jurisdiction over homeland security issues and created the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. One of the Committee’s primary areas of jurisdiction is the protection of the United States homeland and, specifically, oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. The Committee has worked in a bipartisan manner over the years to ensure that DHS develops an effective approach to preparedness for, prevention of, and recovery from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) all work together to fulfill DHS’s mandate to protect the homeland from the myriad threats that we face on our borders, at our ports, online and more.
Chairman Carper and Ranking Member Coburn have made it a priority of the Committee to ensure that key agencies within the federal government are working together in partnership with state and local government to prevent future disasters and, if a disaster does occur, to respond swiftly and effectively. As leaders of the Committee, Senators Carper and Coburn will work closely with other Committee members on key legislation to bolster the Department of Homeland Security and to strengthen our nation's security efforts on a host of fronts.
Immigration, Borders And Ports Security
The Committee’s oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) includes monitoring the security of our borders and ports of entry. The Committee regularly works with government agencies within DHS, including the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, United States Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement to mitigate the threats presented by the potential for terrorists to enter our country, the effects of undocumented immigration and the potential for illicit substances to enter our nation at our borders and ports of entry. These policies are reviewed and adopted as part of an ongoing effort to strike a careful balance between keeping America safe and ensuring that our international commerce and travel which are major drivers of our economy are not unduly restricted.
Biological, Chemical & Nuclear Security
As part of its oversight of the nation's homeland security efforts, the Committee monitors the threat of domestic biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks. This includes oversight of our nation’s preparedness to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon or a weapon of mass destruction. The Committee also oversees the security of many of our nation's chemical facilities. Finally, the Committee oversees the government’s prevention and response to widespread pandemics and other biological threats.