Statements and Speeches

Hearing on the Nomination of Governor Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Opening Statement - Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Jan 15 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My thanks to you, as well, Governor Napolitano for giving up what I know as a former governor is a great job to take on the challenge of managing the Department of Homeland Security.

Your new job, if you are confirmed, Governor, will certainly come with its share of challenges. I know you’re aware of that. But it will also present you with some opportunities. 

We’ve spent a lot of time and money since September 11th and since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security preparing for certain kinds of attacks. But going on eight years since those events, we have a chance – and I would argue an obligation – to evaluate what we’ve done to date, to see what has worked and what has not, and to re-focus our efforts and our scarce resources on the new threats we face. I suspect that at least some of those threats were not even on our radar screens on September 11th or even a few years ago.

One of these newer threats that we need to work to address is the threat of cyber attack.

Over the past few years, Senator Coburn and I have held several hearings in our subcommittee on the importance of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure and sensitive information from cyber attacks. We learned that our economic infrastructure and our military and government operations are at extreme risk of being hindered or, in some cases, shut down altogether as a result of some well-documented a and exploitable weaknesses. 

Since we began our oversight, the threat has become an increasingly scary reality. Over the past year, we have seen two sovereign nations undergo cyber attack by Russia. In addition, the Departments of Defense, State, and Commerce have had their networks hijacked by China. Utilities and financial institutions have also come under attack. I’m not certain that the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security in particular are prepared to address these challenges.

I also question our efforts in the area of transit security, including inter-city passenger rail. 

We can all walk into an airport and see the efforts that have been undertaken to make flying safer since September 11th. That is not the case with transit security despite the fact that some of the worst terrorist attacks we’ve seen since September 11th have occurred on mass transit in cities like London and Madrid. I’m not advocating that we replicate the security procedures we have in place at airports at train and bus stations but I do think that we need to do more than we have done to date to protect those of us who rely on Amtrak and transit on a daily basis.

Those issues – cyber security and transit security – are just two of the many that this change in leadership gives us a chance to look at with a fresh set of eyes. I look forward to working with you and your team, governor, as you take the reins of the department and do just that.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman.