Senate Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) has released this statement reacting to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s speech about the Department’s accomplishments for 2007:
“The Department of Homeland Security has made progress this year in a number of key areas, but significant challenges still remain for the coming year. The Department has been particularly successful in implementing the requirements of the bipartisan SAFE Port Act, which Senator Murray and I co-authored. For example, as a result of this law, DHS has now deployed more than 1000 radiation portal monitors, covering over 97 percent of cargo arriving from overseas.
“There are a number of areas, however, where DHS has much work to do in the coming year.
“DHS is also making progress in implementing the requirements set forth by chemical security legislation that I sponsored with Senator Lieberman, which, for the first time ever, provides the authority for DHS to oversee security at our nation’s chemical facilities.
“As demonstrated by its response to the California wildfires, the Patriots’ Day storm in Maine, and other disasters, FEMA showed significant improvement. The Department has made major strides in implementing reforms set forth in FEMA reform legislation that I co-authored with Senator Lieberman as a result of our Committee’s Hurricane Katrina investigation.
“Given the grave threat posed by terrorist improvised explosive devices—a threat described by the Secretary in testimony before our Committee– I look forward to working with him to ensure that the Department commits the necessary resources to bombing prevention activities. I am pleased that Secretary Chertoff has agreed to work with us on legislation to accomplish this goal.
“Although the Department has made progress on interoperability communications, more must be done to ensure our nation’s first responders can communicate on-demand and in real time during emergencies at all levels of government. Interoperable communications continues to be a major concern among law enforcement officials in Maine and throughout the nation.
“As the Government Accountability Office reported to this Committee in September, the Department has not made sufficient progress in human-capital management, information technology management, and science and technology. And whether preventing a terrorist or a biological pathogen from crossing our borders, the Department must improve its ability to share information and coordinate an effective response. Senator Lieberman and I continue to inquire into the recent incident where a Mexican national, known to have a dangerous drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, crossed over the U.S. border 21 times.
“Under Secretary Chertoff’s strong leadership, DHS did make significant progress this year on a number of homeland security initiatives. But more work remains to be done and I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chertoff and DHS to address these outstanding issues. “