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Bush Administration Is Foot-Dragging in Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations Law

One of the key achievements of the New Direction Congress has been the enactment of a sweeping bill to better protect Americans from terrorism - a bill completing the enactment of the recommendations of the  9/11 Commission into law.  President Bush signed this critical bill on August 3, 2007 (PL 110-53).

Today, the Chairmen of the Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs issued a report entitled “Wasted Lessons of 9/11:  How The Bush Administration Ignored the Law and Squandered Its Opportunities to Make Our Country Safer (.pdf),” which examines the record of the Bush Administration over the last year in implementing some of the key provisions of this critical law.

As the report, prepared by the Majority staffs, states in the executive summary:

“As this report demonstrates, the Bush Administration has not delivered on myriad critical homeland security and national security mandates set forth in the ‘Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007.'  Democratic Members of the Committees are alarmed that the Bush Administration has not made more progress on implementing these key provisions.  Without them, the Administration has failed to provide the American people the security they expect and deserve.  This report is intended as a wake-up call to the Bush Administration.  In the short time left in office, the President should redouble his efforts to make America more secure by acting expeditiously to make progress.”

Read the full report, “Wasted Lessons of 9/11:  How The Bush Administration Ignored the Law and Squandered Its Opportunities to Make Our Country Safer' (.pdf)>>

Below are examples of the Bush Administration's failure to implement some of the key provisions of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations law:

  • 100 Percent Scanning of Containers Coming into U.S. Ports:  HAS REFUSED TO IMPLEMENT.  95 percent of the goods coming into the United States arrive via our seaports.  However, less than 5 percent of the shipping containers coming into our ports are currently being scanned.  A key provision in the 9/11 law required that within five years 100% of seaborne containers bound for the U.S. would be scanned by both X-ray machines and radiation detectors before they leave foreign ports.  And yet, there has been no progress on this key requirement by the Bush Administration.  As the report notes, “Over the past year, the Department of Homeland Security has not acted in a manner that is likely to result in the fulfillment of the mandates established [by the law] - instead, it has actively campaigned against them.”  Indeed, as recently as last week, DHS Secretary Chertoff stated, “it is simply impossible for the federal government…to take on this responsibility.”
  • 100 Percent Screening of Cargo on Passenger Aircraft:  ON WAY TO FAILING TO MEET KEY FIRST DEADLINE.  Every year, about 3 million tons of air cargo is transported on passenger aircraft.  However, most of this air cargo is never screened for explosives.  A key provision in the 9/11 law required 100% screening of cargo on passenger aircraft within three years - requiring 50% of cargo screened by February 3, 2009 and 100% of cargo screened by August 3, 2010.  The Bush Administration is way behind in implementing this requirement.  A pilot program was only commenced last month - a full year after the law's enactment.  Based on the lack of progress and all the available evidence, it appears clear that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will fail to meet the law's first deadline that, by February 3, 2009, 50% of air cargo on passenger aircraft will be screened.
  • Ensuring First Responders Can Communicate With Each Other:  HAS MISSED KEY DEADLINE, SLOWING PROGRESS.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 highlighted the critical importance of first responders - our firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians - being able to communicate with each other.  A key provision in the 9/11 law established a stand-alone emergency communications grant program but also stipulated that, to ensure funds were well-spent, they be spent in accordance with a National Emergency Communications Plan to assure baseline operability and interoperability of communications in an emergency.  The law required that the plan be completed by April 2008.  The Administration missed the deadline - submitting the plan on July 31, three months late and missing key information.  The Administration's failure to finish the plan on time may delay the first round of communications grants from being released and may cause grants to be issued in a manner that is inconsistent with this key plan.
  • Improving Rail and Mass Transit Security:  HAS MISSED KEY DEADLINE, SLOWING PROGRESS.  Over the last decade, rail and mass transit systems all over the world have been targeted by terrorists.  In Madrid, Spain, in March 2004, a terrorist attack on a commuter rail system killed 191 people and injured 1,900.  In London, England, in July 2005, a terrorist attack on the subway system killed 52 people and injured 700.   Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has neglected rail and mass transit security, even as rising gas prices force more Americans to rely on these systems.  A key provision of the 9/11 law required the DHS to develop and implement a National Strategy for Public Transportation Security, authorizing more than $4 billion  over the next five years.  Once again, the Administration has missed a key deadline.  The law required that the National Strategy be developed and implemented by May 3, 2008.  Four months later, the National Strategy has still not been completed - delaying the efforts to make the millions of Americans using rail and mass transit safer.
  • Strengthening Intelligence and Information Sharing with Local Law Enforcement:  HAS MISSED KEY DEADLINE, SLOWING PROGRESS.  The ability of local law enforcement officers to partner effectively with the Federal Government to address terrorism is reliant on the sharing of homeland security information.  To promote information sharing, state and local governments have established intelligence “fusion” centers.  The 9/11 law included provisions to strengthen these “fusion” centers - including requiring DHS to issue a plan for a State, Local and Regional Information Fusion Center Initiative.  And yet, once again, the Administration has missed a key deadline.  The law required that the plan be finalized by November 1, 2007 -- but, 11 months later, the plan is still not complete.  Meanwhile, a recent survey of fusion centers found many problems - including local law enforcement officers complaining that in many cases the federal government is still not providing them the type of homeland security and intelligence information they need to do their jobs.
PROVISION OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS ACT (P.L. 110-53) STATUS UPDATE
Aviation Security: Advanced Passenger
Prescreening System (Sec. 1605)
Plan transmitted but little progress on the program
Aviation Security: Screening of Air Cargo Aboard Passenger Aircraft (Sec. 1602) Missed opportunities
Aviation Security: General Aviation Security (Sec. 1617) Failure to take action
Rail & Public Transportation Security: National Strategy for Public Transportation Security (Sec. 1404) and Security Assessments and Plans (Sec. 1405)
Incomplete, putting public transportation at risk
Rail & Public Transportation Security: Public
Transportation Security Training Program (Sec.
1408), Railroad Security Training Program (Sec.
1517), and Over-the-Road Bus Security Training Program. (Sec. 1534)
Missed opportunities
Rail & Public Transportation Security: Railroad
Transportation Security Risk Assessment and
National Strategy (Sec. 1511)
Incomplete; limited progress
Port Security: Maritime Cargo Security (Sec. 1701) No progress
Border Security: Modernizing the Visa Waiver
Program (Sec. 711)
Initial steps taken but significant implementation challenges remain
Information Sharing: Department of Homeland
Security State, Local, and Regional Fusion Center Program (Sec. 511)
Failure to take action
Information Sharing: Homeland Security Grants
For Intelligence Analysts (Sec. 101)
Acted in a manner inconsistent with the intent of the provision
Privacy and Civil Liberties: Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007 (Sec. 804)
Some progress but required reports have not been submitted
Emergency Response: Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (Sec. 301) Delivery of key plan late; risks delays in grants
Emergency Response: Credentialing and Typing
(Sec. 408)
No progress
Biosurveillance: National Biosurveillance
Integration Center (Sec. 1101)
Initial steps taken but little progress
Private Sector Preparedness: Private Sector
Preparedness (Sec. 901).
Limited progress
Private Sector Preparedness: National Asset
Database (Sec. 1001)
Some progress but little use of the National Asset Database
National Security: Interdicting Weapons of Mass Destruction (Sec. 1821) Failure to take action
National Security: Coordinating U.S.
Nonproliferation Programs (Sec. 1841)
Failure to take action
National Security: International Muslim Youth
Opportunity Fund (Sec. 2012)
Failure to take action
National Security: Establishment of a Middle East Foundation (Sec. 2021) Missed opportunities
National Security: United States Policy Towards Detainees (Sec. 2033) Progress is slow and uncertain
National Security: Strategy For the United States Relationship with Pakistan (Sec. 2042)
Lack of comprehensive strategy yields disastrous results
National Security: Strategy for the United States Relationship with Afghanistan (Sec. 2041) Still diverted from the crisis in Afghanistan
National Security: United States Policy Towards Saudi Arabia (Sec. 2043) Progress is slow and uncertain
National Security: Advancing Democracy Around The World (Title XXI) Key elements unmet