WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday praised Secretary of the Navy Gordon England as a dedicated public servant well suited to serve as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. But he described as inadequate the Bush Administration’s actions so far on intelligence, use of the military, and the role of the private sector in keeping the nation safe. England’s nomination was confirmed by the Senate 99-0.
“England has earned my appreciation and respect as Secretary of the Navy,” Lieberman said. “His qualifications are not in question, nor is his dedication. Throughout his entire professional career, he has demonstrated a unique readiness, willingness, and ability to help make America safer.”
However, Lieberman, said in a statement, “it will not be enough for this department to be led by public servants with good judgment, strong experience, and in-depth expertise in homeland security… More important than the quality of the officers is the quality of the orders—and in my view, since September 11th, the Bush Administration has not proven itself bold enough, aggressive enough, or visionary enough to make America significantly safer.
“Let me give you three examples: “First, intelligence. This Administration’s failure to confront, much less fix, the fundamental problems that plague our intelligence community has been discouraging, disappointing, and I believe potentially dangerous.
“I am of course pleased that the President, in his State of the Union address, announced his support for the creation of a Terrorism Threat Information Center. For many months now, I and other members of the Senate have been proposing a similar analysis center as a way of addressing one of the most glaring weaknesses in our domestic defenses exposed by the September 11th terrorist attacks. This new center will be the place where the dots are connected, to give our government a better chance of uncovering terrorist threats and preventing attacks. I am glad that the Administration has finally agreed that this is critical to our ability to better protect the American people, though I must admit my frustration that it has taken this long for the President to awaken to the wisdom of this solution.
“During the debate over the Department of Homeland Security, I proposed creation of an independent Intelligence Directorate, under the Secretary of Homeland Security, to be staffed by analysts on loan from the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies, and given maximum access to the information about all terrorist threats collected by those agencies. Its purpose would be clear – to connect the dots and overcome the failures to share intelligence that surely contributed to the successful terrorist attacks on our country.
“Unfortunately, the President opposed that approach. Instead, the administration insisted on focusing the department’s intelligence center on protecting critical infrastructure, rather than on performing analysis primarily designed to preempt and disrupt attacks before they occur. In the end, a compromise was reached; creating a single directorate that would analyze all terrorist threats as well as assess vulnerabilities to the infrastructure. However, until the President’s State of the Union address, the administration has insisted on implementing its original concept of infrastructure protection.
“But there’s still serious reason for concern. The President said Tuesday night that the new analysis center would answer to the Director of Central Intelligence and would be composed of analytical units from the FBI and the CIA. But Congress’s clear intent was that he should create a strong Directorate to “connect the dots” within the Department of Homeland Security. Historic rivalries among the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies are a major problem we must overcome. Placing this fusion center in the new Department would ensure analysis from an independent entity outside of the existing rivalries. The President’s approach perpetuates a major part of the problem. Though I am glad he has finally agreed that we need a single Terrorist Threat Information Center, the President has been altogether too reluctant to challenge the status quo in the intelligence community and the FBI.
“Second, the role of the military. As Secretary England understands well, our armed forces have tremendous resources. There are 1.3 million people on active military duty, most of them in the United States, and about 900,000 members of our Reserves and Guard. That’s 2.2 million defense personnel. We expect the Department of Homeland Security to employ about 170,000 people. “Taxpayers will invest almost $393 billion this year, money well spent, in their Department of Defense. The new homeland defense department will probably have a budget, and total resources, about one tenth that.
“Now of course our military’s principal activities will be and must be outside our borders. As we are learning in the effort to disarm Iraq, we need our forces to be strong. We need them to be flexible. We need them to be ready at any time.
“But I believe at the same time we can and must use some of our defense assets more effectively here at home. Our Department of Defense has trained, disciplined, cohesive units with more experience in responding to crisis, more technology, and more expertise in dealing with chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons, than anybody else in government. It has created a new Northern Command to defend the United States. In this new kind of war taking place on a homeland battlefield, we must use all those resources optimally.
“I’ve put forward some ideas on how to do that, primarily by applying some of the expertise and experience of our National Guard. I hope the Administration engages in this discussion and comes forward with some ideas of its own. Secretary England’s experience will make him an invaluable contributor to this discussion.
“Third, let me discuss the role of the private sector. “United we stand, divided we fall” is not a cliché. In the case of the war against terrorism, it is a truism—and a warning for us all to heed. This war cannot be won by government alone. We must be one nation under collaboration, one nation under cooperation. I hope Secretary England, who has extensive experience as an engineer and executive in the aerospace industry, is ready to think creatively about how best to engage private industry to better protect us from terrorism—because in the past 16 months, the Bush Administration has been far too passive on this front.
“We’re paying a price for that passivity. According to a report issued by the Council on Competitiveness in December, the vast majority of U.S. corporate executives do not see their companies as potential targets of terrorism. Only 53 percent of survey respondents indicated that they had made any increased security investments between 2001 and 2002.
“And most of the security changes in the past year in the private sector have focused on “guards, gates and guns”—in other words, on protecting the physical security of buildings alone. Despite 80 percent of the respondents to the Council’s survey indicating they had conducted vulnerability assessments related to their physical plants, barely half have studied the vulnerabilities in their telephone and shipping networks, electric power supplies, and supplier companies—and even fewer companies had made any changes based on these assessments.
“With 85 percent of our critical infrastructure owned by the private sector, this slow action ought to be a national concern, and correcting it ought to be a national priority. Another area I believe we should instantly expect more productive public-private partnerships is in vaccine development. I am pleased that the President has now acknowledged the need to build new shields to protect ourselves from the deadly bioterror arrows that our enemies may use against us. This is an urgent priority that our government has let languish for far too long.
“Unfortunately, the Administration’s approach to developing medicines to protect us against a bioterror attack has been too narrow, too conventional, too slow and too small to rise to this urgent challenge. Respectfully, the new initiative announced by the President—what we know about it today—seems to be more of the same.
“So far, the Administration has addressed this problem by providing funding for basic research by academics. But that’s not the only thing we need to do to swiftly develop breakthrough new medicines that we can stockpile and deploy.
“To do this the right way, we also need to engage our ingenious private sector—the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, which have so far shown no interest in this research. Today, even if the academic scientists find a promising lead, there is no company ready to move that antidote or medicine from concept to product—from laboratory to bedside.
“Back in December of 2001 I introduced legislation, now cosponsored by Senator Hatch (S. 3148), to provide incentives to private companies to take up and accelerate this vital research.
“The BioShield program apparently adopts one of the ideas from our bill, to provide a guaranteed purchase fund for needed medicines. That’s good news—and I’m glad the President has seen the wisdom of this approach. I’ve said for more than a year that we can’t expect these private companies to commit themselves to this R&D if they cannot determine the scope and terms of the market that might await them.
“But based on the details the White House has released to date, BioShield does not incorporate any of the other incentives I have proposed—no tax incentives, no intellectual property protections, no liability protections, no incentives to develop research tools or construct manufacturing facilities. It is a bare and belated beginning on what we have to do to engage the private sector in this research.
“We are in grave danger. The Defense Science Board estimated in 2000 that we have only 1 of the 57 diagnostics, vaccines and drugs we need to deal with the top 19 bioterror threats. In other words, if you do the math we were less than 2 percent prepared. No progress has been made since then. The DSB said if we were to launch a major industrial development effort, we might be able to develop 20 of these countermeasures in 5 years and 30 in 10 years. The President’s announcement of $600 million in funding over ten years won’t begin to address this massive and threatening gap.
“The Administration’s failure on this front is in my view part of a general myopia. The President seems unwilling to enlist every sector and segment of society to do its part to help us win the war against terrorism. But Americans want to contribute. They want to know what they can do for their country. This would have been the perfect place for the President to pave the way to a new, productive partnership between government and the private sector. But regrettably, he has missed the opportunity.
“I’ve put forward a comprehensive proposal to ignite private development of the countermeasures we’ll need to protect ourselves from the dozens and dozens of bioterror agents that might be used against us. Those medicines, antidotes and vaccines won’t materialize by accident. Getting that done will take leadership from Washington.
“Let me conclude by saying that I appreciate Secretary England’s commitment to serve. The country appreciates his public and private service over the course of the last 40 years, and values his experience, expertise, and management skill which will be focused on this urgent new challenge.
“I look forward to partnering with soon to be Deputy Secretary England and Secretary Ridge—but I also look forward to pushing and prodding this Administration, which has so far moved too slowly and cautiously in closing our dramatic homeland security vulnerabilities.”