APRIL 3, 2001
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am glad that we are having a hearing on the Phase III report of the Hart-Rudman Commission.
I very much appreciate the appearance today of Senator Gary Hart and Senator Warren Rudman, the co-chairmen of the commission, as well as of Congressman Lee Hamilton, a member of the commission.
The three of them can collectively boast of almost 60 years in Congress working on national security policy and protecting our country from terrorism.
Let me say first of all that I agree with the thrust of the commission's recommendations: that we need to make fundamental changes in our counterterrorism policy.
I could not agree more that our current counterterrorism policy is fragmented, uncoordinated, and unaccountable.
As I see it, a main problem here is that we don't know who is in charge of preparing for and responding to a catastrophic terrorist attack.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently found that federal, state, and local governments had not agreed on a clear chain of command for dealing with a terrorist incident.
I disagree with those who suggest that such a clear chain of command is impossible. Or that bureaucratic turf wars would prevent us from designating a lead agency to take charge in the event of a terrorist attack.
After all, other Western industrialized countries facing terrorists have met this challenge.
A recent GAO report found that of six countries surveyed - the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Israel, and the UK - only the U.S. has failed to determine clearly who would be in charge of responding to a terrorist incident.
Another problem is that the government has spread counterterrorism assets over at least 45 agencies, and these agencies are not coordinated to prevent or protect against or respond to a major terrorist attack.
One result is that terrorism has a tendency to drop off the radar screen of the national security establishment.
As former U.S. Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly has said, "The whole issue of counterterrorism needs an advocate, a high-level person-perhaps ... a Cabinet [officer] - to make certain that there's consistent attention to the issue." [CNN, Jan. 31, 2001]
Another problem is that agencies tend to duplicate each other's efforts, thus getting in each other's way and wasting taxpayer dollars.
As former FEMA chief James Lee Witt said recently, "You've got too many agencies doing the same thing." [Quoted in The St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 10, 2001]
In addition, many federal agencies seem to be focusing on general vulnerabilities rather than credible threats and on worse-case scenarios instead of likely probabilities.
For example, HHS has recently tried to establish a national pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpile that doesn't match intelligence agencies' judgments of the most likely chemical and biological agents that terrorists might use.
Such problems are not just bureaucratic. They could result in the needless loss of tens of thousands of lives in a catastrophic terrorist attack.
Many experts, including members of the Hart-Rudman Commission, believe that a catastrophic terrorist attack is virtually inevitable in the next 25 years.
Such an attack could take many forms.
The most likely one would be a terrorist assault on a large city with a germ weapon or a cyberattack on the East Coast air traffic control system.
In fact, as a witness told us last week at a subcommittee hearing, a group or nation with a budget of around $10 million and a team of about 30 computer experts could wreak billions of dollars of damage to U.S. infrastructure.
And we also cannot forget the most obvious and probable terrorist threat: that from simple conventional weapons.
The terrorists who bombed the U.S.S. Cole, our African embassies, the Atlanta Olympics, the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, and the World Trade Center all relied on a range of readily available, easily obtainable bombmaking materials.
For example, the urea nitrate bomb used at the World Trade Center costs about $400 to make. That bomb caused at least a half billion dollars in damages.
To be sure, America has always viewed itself as relatively safe from terrorist attack-surrounded as it is by friendly neighbors and large oceans.
However, the threat of terrorist attack on our nation remains quite real.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses on the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman Commission report and on the problem of terrorism.
And I look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Thank you.
Senator Feinstein