March 06, 2004
Congressman Young said, "Its been a year this month that we underwent the largest reorganization of the U.S. Government in over a half a century. I'm not totally satisfied with the results of this bill, but the intent was good, and the initial legislation was good. We have to continue to make sure that provisions are implemented correctly."
"Overall I think we have made the country more secure, especially in aviation. Our ports are much further ahead in security, and our railroad security has improved. I'm quite comfortable with the strides that have been made in securing our homeland. We have to continue to progress in making this nation a more proactive secured nation, and not just reactive," said Congressman Young.
On March 1, 2003, approximately 180,000 personnel from 22 different organizations around the government became part of the Department of Homeland Security - completing the largest government reorganization since the beginning of the Cold War. Young said, as a result, the nation's efforts to defend the homeland are more effective, efficient, and organized.
The Department of Homeland Security was created with one single overriding responsibility: to make America more secure. Along with the sweeping transformation within the FBI, the establishment of the Department of Defense's U.S. Northern Command, and the creation of the multi-agency Terrorist Threat Integration Center and Terrorist Screening Center, America is better prepared to prevent, disrupt, and respond to terrorist attacks than ever before, according to information provided in a news release by the Congressman's office.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as part of its Homeland Security Information Network initiative, announced the expansion of its computer-based counterterrorism communications system to all 50 states, five territories, Washington, D.C., and 50 major urban areas to strengthen its flow of threat information.
This communications capability will deliver to states and major urban areas real-time interactive connectivity with the DHS Homeland Security Operations Center through the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES). This secure system will significantly strengthen the flow of real-time threat information at the Sensitive-but-Unclassified (SBU) level to all users immediately, and provides the platform for future classified SECRET communications to the state level. This collaborative communications environment, developed by state and local authorities, will allow all states and major urban areas to collect and disseminate information between federal, state, and local agencies involved in combating terrorism.
Other areas of DHS security improvements highlighted by Young:
Border and Transportation Security: DHS has unified the agencies responsible for securing our borders - many now wearing the same uniform - to keep out terrorists, criminals, and dangerous material. To do so, DHS is implementing a layered security strategy - including an increased DHS presence at key foreign ports, improved visa and inspection processes, strengthened seaport security, and improved security technology at airports and border crossings. DHS is implementing background checks on 100% of applications for U.S. citizenship and has registered over 1.5 million travelers into the U.S. VISIT program. The Coast Guard also has seized over 136,000 pounds of cocaine and arrested more than 280 drug smugglers in 2003 with this layered approach.
Critical Infrastructure: DHS has worked to better protect our communications systems, power grids, and transportation networks. During the holiday terror alert, DHS coordinated with private and civic partners to upgrade security at key facilities around the country. DHS also established a National Cyber Security Division to examine cyber-security incidents, track attacks, and coordinate response.
Chemical and Biological Threats: DHS has established the BioWatch program, which protects many large U.S. cities by monitoring the air for biological agents that could be released by terrorists. Additionally, with the funding of the President's Project BioShield, America is able to develop and acquire more advanced vaccines and treatments for biological agents.
Helping our First Responders: The Federal Government has provided more than $13 billion to equip and train local officials such as firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers to respond to terrorism and other emergencies and created a National Incident Management system. Over 500,000 responders have been trained in weapons of mass destruction awareness and response since September 11, 2001.
Source of News Release: