By the Bipartisan Policy Center, Special for USDR
The members of the 9/11 Commission, led by Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, released a new report today to reflect the altered but dangerous terrorist threat facing the nation. Ten years after the release of the commission’s original report, with mounting threats from the resurgence and transformation of al Qaeda, Syria and a rapidly changing cyberspace, the commission’s new report calls for a vigorous and proactive counterterrorism effort.
“Over the past eight months, in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report, the former members of the commission reconvened to reflect on how the world has changed over the past decade, to assess the current terrorist threat to the United States, and to agree on recommendations for improving U.S. national security,” said Kean and Hamilton in the report. The report, Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report, comes from the Bipartisan Policy Center and Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, which reconvened the 9/11 Commissioners to develop their updated recommendations.
To sustain public support for policies and resource levels nearly 13 years after 9/11, national security leaders must communicate to the public what the threat is, how it is evolving, what measures are being taken to address it, why those measures are necessary and what specific protections are in place to protect civil liberties. The commission calls on Congress and the president to consider if updated legal authorities are needed to confront new threats like ISIS.
In the report, the commission reiterated its call for Congress to oversee and legislate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through one primary authorizing committee and recommends that these changes take place when the next Congress convenes in January 2015. With ninety-two committees and subcommittees now exercising some jurisdiction over DHS, fragmented oversight has become a significant impediment to the department’s success. “Put simply: If Congress is not effectively overseeing these programs, no one is. Congress’s failure to reform itself makes the country less safe,” states the report.
To better protect Americans from intensifying attacks on the nation’s information systems and defend the cyber domain, an issue that was not as prevalent a decade ago, the report calls on government officials to explain to the public – in clear, specific terms – the severity of the current threat and the tools needed to combat it. The commission urges Congress to enact cybersecurity legislation to enable collaboration between the public and private sectors and calls on the administration to communicate what the consequences of cyberattacks against the U.S. will be and work with allies to establish norms of cyberspace.
“One lesson of the 9/11 story is that, as a nation, Americans did not awaken to the gravity of the terrorist threat until it was too late. History may be repeating itself in the cyber realm,” according to the report. “The Internet’s vulnerabilities are outpacing the nation’s ability to secure it.”
The commission reiterated its original recommendation that the Director of National Intelligence coordinate the work of various agencies not duplicate it, advance information sharing and have full budget authority to apportion funds among intelligence agencies and reprogram them as needed to meet new priorities.
“The absence of another 9/11-style attack does not mean the threat is gone: As 9/11 showed, a period of quiet can be shattered in a moment by a devastating attack. The pressing question is whether the United States is prepared to face the emergent threats of today – and those it is likely to face in the years to come,” counsels the commission in the report. “On issue after issue – the resurgence and transformation of al Qaeda, Syria, the cyber threat – public awareness lags behind official Washington’s. If this gap persists, the political support for needed national security capabilities will fade. In today’s very dangerous world, that is something we can ill afford.”
Read the full report and a summary of the recommendations here.