Greater Issues: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Greater Issues News Release
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
October 21, 2010
Good morning and thank you, Gen. Hines. I’m honored to be at The Citadel this morning, and to have a chance to speak with the Corps of Cadets. That goes for knobs as well as upper classmen.
I also want to thank, Don Fowler, the John C. West Distinguished Professor of Government here, for initially asking me to be here.
The first cadets reported to The Citadel in 1843 when there were only 26 states in the Union. At this point, the United States had, at best, 20,000 active duty military personnel. Americans were reading new books by Edgar Allan Poe and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And my own state of Arizona was still part of Mexican territory.
The United States has certainly changed dramatically since then. And so have the demands on our military, and the kinds of threats we face as a nation.
Of course, The Citadel itself changed, and I dare say, became an even stronger institution. Strong institutions change, they adapt, and that’s what makes them strong … and of course, our military is a great example of this.
The men – and women – who graduate from today’s Citadel become leaders not just in our military, but in business, in their communities, and in every arena possible.
Yet the strength of your commitment to America’s security holds firm. Since 2001, when military operations against al Qaeda and its affiliates began, more than 1,400 Citadel alumni have been deployed around the world. And more than a dozen have given their lives for our country.
And while our military has sacrificed, and adapted to an ever-changing environment, so too has the way we work across the homeland to keep America secure.
The attacks of September 11th, 2001 challenged the conventional notion that foreign threats were truly foreign … that we could maintain a divide between domestic and foreign affairs … keep the two in tidy little boxes.
In fact, we know this isn’t the case. Indeed, the 9/11 plotters conceived of their plans in the Philippines, planned in Malaysia and Germany, recruited from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan – and even at flight schools here in the U.S. – before they carried out their horrific attack.
I wish I could say that the blurring of lines, the evolution of the threats, had abated since then. But I can’t.
Quite the opposite, today I want to talk about how the profound shifts are still underway and are even faster and more transformational than ever. The lines between the foreign and domestic are even murkier than before, or often not there at all.
For example, look at the attempted bombing of a U.S. bound airliner last Christmas Day. While that attempted attack involved a U.S. plane bound for a U.S. city, it was an international terror plot in almost every way.
Individuals from at least 17 nations were on board the flight, and the plane was over Canadian airspace at the time of the incident.
The alleged attacker was a Nigerian citizen, educated in the United Kingdom, and trained in terrorist tactics in Yemen. He had purchased his ticket in Ghana, and flown from Lagos, Nigeria, to Amsterdam before departing for Detroit.
The Department of Homeland Security works as a vital bridge between the international and domestic. We do this at our borders and ports, and now we’re tackling this challenge in cyberspace.
So while this networked world we live in poses new challenges, and threats that, frankly, cannot always be prevented, there is much that we can – and must – do. And even though the threats we confront are often complex, there’s actually nothing unclear about how we will surmount them.
We’ll do it by drawing on values that have built our nation. Values like shared responsibility, resilience, and ingenuity. Values that make us American. Values you are learning right here at The Citadel and values that make the United States Military the strongest, best trained and most robust the world has ever known.
New Threats, New Environment
The primary mission of my department, DHS, is to prevent and protect against another terrorist attack. And that threat is constantly evolving and, over the last few years, it has become more and more diverse.
The threat is diversifying in terms of the sources, the tactics being used, and the targets being considered. While Al-Qaeda itself continues to threaten the United States, al-Qaeda also inspires an array of affiliated terrorist groups.
Some of these, like al-Shabaab in Somalia, haven’t tried to attack the United States, but have carried out attacks elsewhere, and have leaders that espouse violent anti-American ideology.
We’ve even seen evidence of them recruiting Somali Americas for insurgency and war abroad – opening a new geographic frontier in our fight against violent extremism.
Others, like Tehrik-e Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have attempted to attack the United States, in the Times Square and Christmas Day bombing attempts, respectively.
In addition, a new and changing facet of the terrorist threat comes from homegrown terrorists – by which I mean U.S. persons who are radicalized here and receive terrorist training here or elsewhere – and bring knowledge of the U.S. and the West to terrorist organizations.
And today the Internet is a top recruiting tool for terrorists; they are leveraging the same tools to promote violence and chaos that I’m sure many of you use to buy music and communicate with friends and family on-line.
But the new threats go beyond acts of terrorism as we think of them. We’ve seen significant cyber attacks against our military, on our allies’ military systems, on big companies like Google, and on everyday users when the Conficker worm infected millions of computers worldwide and caused outages to critical systems of commerce and communication.
We’ve seen a global pandemic like the H1N1 flu virus move unhindered and threaten lives, economies, travel, and trade. Indeed, during its peak, H1N1 was believed to have infected millions of people in dozens of counties.
And we’ve seen transnational criminal organizations continue to attempt to exploit our borders and support a global criminal infrastructure that traffics in humans, drugs, weapons, and cash.
None of these threats stop at the border to morph from a national security to a homeland security threat. Our thinking – and our responses – can’t stop at the borders either.
Roles and Responsibilities
So what does this mean for us? And for you?
The short answer is that the new environment we’re in, the networked age has big implications for us in government and for you as individuals, and as future military, business, and community leaders.
First and foremost, it means a willingness to think differently about some old models and assumptions. Today we know that events around the world that may be seemingly isolated can actually have potential consequences here in the United States.
We’ve seen this with respect to terrorist training, planning, and recruitment. Indeed, in recent attacks – including the attempted attack on Times Square – terrorist activities overseas and recruiting over the Internet have inspired U.S. persons to seek training overseas so they can carry out attacks here.
In addition, we’re seeing the influence of violent extremist messages and propaganda spread by U.S.-born, English-speaking individuals operating from abroad. That includes publications, messages in English, and use of the Internet to increase the number of homegrown violent extremists.
In government this forces us to react, adapt, and anticipate. It requires unprecedented cooperation, integration, and imagination. The team we put on the frontlines needs to be bigger, better networked and better trained. In short, we need to build a network of our own to match the networked threats of the 21st century.
How DHS is Leading
The Department of Homeland Security is confronting, and staying ahead of these new threats.
Since we were founded seven years ago, we have become a vital bridge between the classic national security apparatus, and the civilian institutions that traditionally have kept us safe at home, like state and local law enforcement, and first responders.
In essence, we are building a homeland security architecture not simply to protect the homeland, but to enlist the homeland in its own defense.
Like the military, we do this through force multipliers, by leveraging our nation’s shared assets, building critical new capabilities, developing common goals, and jointly working with our partners in law enforcement, emergency response, and the private sector.
We are a major federal partner in an expansive homeland security enterprise that’s built on partnerships, relationships, training, and information sharing.
Let me give you a few examples of how this translates into policy and practice, starting at the top.
Since taking office, President Obama has integrated the former National Security and Homeland Security Council staffs into a single staff. This recognizes that we must have a unified approach to how we look at foreign and domestic threats.
The President’s new National Security Strategy is also the first in history to integrate the concepts of homeland security into our approach for the security of our nation and our interests abroad.
This has led to increased collaboration with our federal partners. For example, last week I signed an agreement with Defense Secretary Gates for our departments to share and coordinate more closely to combat threats from cyberspace.
Threats in the cyber world do not adhere to physical borders; they can come from state and non-state actors alike; and they often have far-reaching consequences. As a result, we need to take an administration-wide approach to this problem – and that’s what we’re doing.
Among other things, this agreement will place DHS cyber analysts within the Department of Defense, and vice versa, so our people are literally working side-by-side in the same room. Through this cooperation, our two Departments will have an impact that each of us wouldn’t have alone.
We’re also enhancing our international footprint – because even though we’re called the Department of Homeland Security, the reality is that security doesn’t begin at our borders. Our physical borders cannot be our first line of defense. We have to work internationally to address problems that are global in scope and impact.
Currently, we have over 2,200 personnel stationed all over the world – in more than 70 countries – where they work with other elements of our own government, and with foreign governments.
This work includes substantial interaction with the Department of Defense and other foreign military through the U.S. Coast Guard, which is engaged in activities from the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, and from South America to the Arctic Circle.
We also have DHS personnel working in 44 countries to combat human trafficking and cross-border crime, and our Customs and Border Protection personnel are now in 58 foreign seaports, where they conduct screening of U.S. bound cargo to identify threats before they reach our shores.
We’ve also embarked on one of the most ambitious aviation security initiatives since 9/11 to address vulnerabilities in global aviation. This work has taken me to five continents already this year, including a trip to Canada in September to address representatives from 190 countries about steps we need to take to strengthen international aviation.
As a result of these meetings, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is the United Nations body responsible for global air travel, issued a Declaration on Aviation Security earlier this month.
This is truly a historic action; it will help lay the foundation for international aviation security for years to come, and outlines a new framework for how the international community will go about enhancing air travel through better information sharing, passenger vetting, new screening technology, and shared technical assistance.
Here at home, our Department is connecting state and local law enforcement – the 17,000 law enforcement agencies, and 900,000 officers – to our Federal and international partners through our fusion centers, which foster sharing of information on threats that might be percolating in our cities and communities.
Timely, effective sharing of information remains one of our most important tools for identifying threats and taking appropriate action to address them. You’ve likely heard the expression “connecting the dots,” which means taking discrete bits of information and looking at them in the aggregate to see if a picture or pattern emerges.
Fusion centers help us connect the dots. There are now 72 of them across the country – including a center here in South Carolina – all working to get information to frontline personnel when they need it and in the right format.
Related to this, we’re also expanding what we call the National Suspicious Activity Reporting, or SAR, initiative into a greater resource for front-line security personnel.
The SAR initiative, which is run in conjunction with the Department of Justice, creates a standard process for law enforcement in over two dozen states and cities to identify and report suspicious activity so it can be shared nationally to identify broader trends that may warrant further scrutiny. We’re now in the process of expanding the SAR initiative to fusion centers, transit police, and other groups.
All of these activities underscore a basic reality that state and local law enforcement are in a unique position to uncover domestic threats in our cities and communities.
In fact, it’s the cop on the beat here in Charleston that may help prevent the next terrorist attack. I’d venture to say that he or she is as much a part of our homeland security team as our men and women gathering information and intelligence overseas.
Of course, the private sector also plays a critical role – and for good reason: the private sector owns and operates the vast majority of our nation’s critical infrastructure.
By critical infrastructure, I mean our communications systems, financial systems, transportation, and agriculture – the kinds of things our society and our economy depend on every day to function.
A major part of our work includes partnering with the private sector to identify vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, develop security plans, harden facilities, share information, and build more resilient systems that can bounce back after a disruption or attack.
In some instances, this has required the creation of new regulatory frameworks to ensure the right kinds of actions are being taken to protect these systems.
For example, we’re now working closely with our nation’s chemical sector to assess the thousands of chemical facilities across the country for risk and ensure the highest risk facilities meet federal security standards.
What’s Expected of You
The globalization of threats means, among other things, that government alone can’t address these problems.
We must all commit to becoming better informed about the new threats and thinking about the security of our nation in a fundamentally different way.
And we must all embrace the new responsibilities that come with the rights of citizenship in the networked age.
Across government, military, law enforcement, non-profit and private sectors we need an unprecedented willingness to challenge assumptions, collaborate, and build trust.
People are at the heart of this in both their individual and collective capacities.
As future leaders in our military, our private sector, our communities, you bear perhaps a bigger part of this responsibility: to understand, to inform, to educate and empower others.
Those of you who go on to careers in our military or who enter public service will take an oath of office. Many of the words in that oath are identical to the oath of allegiance for new citizens to our country. As part of this oath, you will swear to uphold and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
This is a founding oath of our nation, something taken by generations of elected leaders and military officials. And it underscores the fact that very early on our country recognized that threats to the United States can come from abroad, but also from within– and we must give both our equal attention.
Our nation’s founders couldn’t have imagined that threats thousands of miles from our shores could have an immediate impact on our citizens and our country. But that’s the reality we face today – and it’s a reality we must confront.
We’re responding to the new reality by working together across lines and in new ways. There can be no national security without a safe and secure homeland, and vice versa.
The Citadel is training you to confront these and other challenges. And whatever career path you ultimately take, you will be a vital part of our team – because we all have a role to play in our nation’s defense.
So I want to wish you every success in your future endeavors. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I’d be happy to take some questions.