Washington, DC — Senate Democrats today hosted a major homeland security summit in Washington, with leaders from across the country participating in a day of forums and workshops to discuss the right plans to protect our nation and to prepare for the next emergency.
Americans know their country is headed in the wrong direction and their security is going with it. Five years after 9/11 and close to one year after Hurricane Katrina, Bush Republican incompetence has left national and homeland security unattended. Today’s summit brought together policy experts, legislators, and leaders from across the spectrum of security needs, from firefighters to 9/11 Commission members, to discuss the tough AND smart plans needed to put the nation back on track.
“From the Gulf Coast to cities and towns across our country, Americans know they are not as safe as they should be,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. “Right now, Bush Republican incompetence is apparent in the needs of our fire houses and police stations. If we don’t act now, some day it will be apparent in the response to another emergency like Katrina. America can and must do better”
“Almost five years after 9/11 and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we still are not adequately prepared to meet the challenges we face in securing our homeland and responding when crisis strikes,” said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and an opening speaker at the summit. “We owe it to our first responders who are serving on the front lines to make sure they have the resources and federal leadership needed to face these threats. That means securing our ports, railways, and mass transit; investing in first responders; preparing against possible pandemics; implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and taking steps to secure our country in ways commensurate with the threat.”
“Protecting the homeland requires a global focus, international cooperation, significant public investments especially in the training of personnel, a fully engaged private sector, and clear unambiguous objectives around which bi-partisan support can be built,” said former Senator and 9/11 Commission Member Bob Kerrey, who delivered the Lunch Keynote Address. “Unfortunately, the Bush administration has spent too much time worrying about political spin and too little time on results. Particularly in areas where public investments will produce private sector benefits such as transportation, communication and health care the administration has missed significant opportunities. The news is that it is not too late to act; the bad news is the margin for error is extremely small.”
Throughout the day, national leaders, elected officials, and security and policy experts discussed the new policies needed to make this country safe again
“Since my term as Governor began in 2001, Delaware has responded to snowstorms, hurricanes and a tornado, as well as sent resources to assist other states in responding to the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina,” said Ruth Ann Minner, Governor of the state of Delaware. “We understand the importance of effective communications between all levels of government. I call upon the federal government to continue training with state and local responders and providing resources to ensure effective communications during disasters.”
“While President Bush has pushed hard to ensure that our military has the resources necessary to protect our nation abroad, he has let our country’s fire fighters and paramedics down by failing to provide the resources necessary for them to protect our citizens here at home,” said Harold Schaitberger, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “Our nation shouldn’t have to suffer another Katrina or 9/11 before our nation’s first responders get the support they need in their courageous efforts to protect their communities and our citizens. This summit will hopefully get Congress and the Administration to act.”
“Nearly five years after 9/11and a year after Hurricane Katrina, the United States still lacks a clear strategy and set of priorities to guide its spending on homeland security and domestic preparedness,” said Michèle Flournoy, Senior Adviser at the International Security Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Consequently, Americans are not getting their money’s worth from the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been spent in this area, and America is not as secure as it could be or should be. Looking to the future, we need a strategy that articulates a clear set of priorities, a resource allocation process that ensures that money is actually spent according to our priorities, an action plan to address the most pressing capability shortfalls, and a more robust and integrated approach to planning and preparing for the next 9/11 or Katrina.”
Democrats know homeland security starts with hometown security, and in March unveiled their Real Security agenda. The comprehensive plan would rebuild and revitalize America’s military and National Guard; secure its ports, cities, and borders; and finally support and supply the first responders so critical in an emergency.