This evening John McCain and Barack Obama will appear together (but speak separately) as part of a nationally televised forum at Columbia University in Manhattan. The two presidential candidates have promised to set aside politics to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and will instead lay out their personal visions on civic engagement and service. The candidates’ call for unity on this day is admirable, but the chosen topic of the event is also yet another missed opportunity for the American people to hear about how each candidate plans to protect our country from future attacks and disasters.
Energy, taxes and federal spending are all important issues that deserve the candidates time, but the candidates have devoted almost no time to discussing their vision for improving homeland security. Despite this lack of attention, Americans still face threats from abroad (where al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan) and at home (another hurricane is bearing down on Texas and California).
Seven years after 9/11 and more than five years after its creation, the Department of Homeland Security is afflicted with high turnover and low morale. It has turned into a political football that answers to 86 different congressional committees and subcommittees (by contrast, the Department of Defense answers to only 36 committees, and six of those handle 80% of the oversight). Too much attention is focused on DHS, which ought to be only one part of a much larger homeland security system that includes not just federal agencies like the the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, Energy and State, but also state and local governments.
Due to its sheer size and growing population, the United States has many vulnerabilities. Spending billions to protect infrastructure does not make the nation invulnerable. It is impossible to protect every target, and a strategy predicated on protection is bound to fall short. For too long the federal government has been designating more and more items as “critical” infrastructure. If everything is critical, nothing is critical. Instead, the next administration should pursue a strategy of resiliency. Heritage senior research fellow James Carafano explains: “[R]esiliency promises something much more achievable and important: sustaining society amid known threats and unexpected disasters. Indeed, the more complex the society and the more robust the nature of its civil society, the more it should adopt a strategy of resilience.”
Toward this end, Carafano recommends:
- Establishing improved public-private models for risk management that define reasonable roles for government and industry.
- Encouraging bilateral cooperation to address liability issues.
- Developing national and international forums for increasing collaboration.
- Innovating to pave the way for resilient public infrastructure in the 21st century.
As we remember those we lost seven years ago, it is also a good time to reflect on what we can do better to protect all Americans from tomorrow’s threats, both natural and man-made. Hopefully, we’ll hear both candidates address these issues soon.
- Two Russian bombers have landed at a Venezuelan airfield, where they will carry out training flights for several days.
- A Venezuelan lawyer testified Wednesday that leftist dictator Hugo Chavez attempted to deliver $800,000 in cash to leftist Argentina presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in August 2007.
- Japan has joined the European Union in raising tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods thanks to legislation sponsored by Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
- According to Rasmussen Reports, 62% of voters say encouraging economic growth in America is more important than closing the gap between the rich and poor, and the best way to do that is for the government to move out of the way.
- Democrat leaders plan to forge ahead with a $50 billion stimulus package in the short time Congress will be in session between now and the election.