No American ever wants to relive the attacks of September 11, 2001. Hundreds of our friends and neighbors were murdered on that horrific day; over a decade and a half later, Long Island is still mourning the heroes we lost.
Though we have made a lot of progress since 2001, I know that the New York–Long Island region remains the number one terrorist target in the country. As the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and as Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Emerging Threats Subcommittee, I am absolutely committed to strengthening our national security and confronting al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their violent Islamist extremist allies and affiliates, head on. That is why I have supported the PATRIOT Act and the right of our government to intercept terrorist phone calls being made into the United States from overseas. I have worked hard to pass legislation securing our ports, our chemical plants, and our airports. I have also reached across the aisle to pass legislation protecting our rail and transportation systems.
The safety and security of all New Yorkers and Long Islanders – indeed of all Americans – depends on our national security and law enforcement professionals. They can count on my support, and in the 115th Congress I will continue to fight for effective homeland security and intelligence programs and policies.
Support for First Responders
Our law enforcement and first responders are heroes and our first line of defense against terrorist attacks in the U.S. I have been a tireless advocate for homeland securing funding for New York City and Long Island to support training, equipment, intelligence sharing and other counterterrorism capabilities vital for law enforcement and first responders. It has been an honor and one of my greatest responsibilities to stand with these heroes and ensure they have the tools then need to protect our communities and way of life.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
A terrorist attack using a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agent in a U.S. city would be catastrophic. That is why the Securing the Cities (STC) Initiative, which places radiation detection systems throughout the New York region and other major urban areas, is so vital. I have fought to ensure that this program continues to receive funding to support efforts in New York and expand detection capability in other locations. I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 655 to permanent authorize the STC program. Additionally, I am pleased to report that legislation I introduced during the 114th Congress to make the anthrax vaccine available to first responders was signed into law (P.L. 114-268).
Homegrown Violent Extremism
The threat of homegrown terrorism and violent Islamist extremist radicalization, as evidenced by the terrorist attacks at Orlando, San Bernardino, Times Square, and Boston, is the most prolific threat facing the Homeland. In the 112th Congress, in my capacity as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I held a series of hearings examining the extent of this threat. Since then, I have continued to try to shine a light on the chronic problem of radicalization in the United States and identify solutions. Unfortunately, with the multiplication of al-Qaeda-affiliated and jihadist groups worldwide, and the growth of ISIS, the threat of radicalization has worsened.
During the 114th Congress, I held several Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearings on the threat posed by radicalized individuals and to examine efforts to detect and deter terrorist travel. I have cosponsored legislation to improve the Department of Homeland Security Visa Waiver Program to better protect against the evolving threats posed by foreign fighters.
As the diaspora of fighters and ideology spreads, there will be long-term consequences and a direct threat the West and the U.S., as demonstrated by recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ottawa and Sydney. The war against Islamist terrorism must involve multilayered approaches so that we can stay ahead of our enemy.
The 115th Congress has an opportunity, working with a new Administration, to make dramatic investment and improvements our cyber defenses and offensive capability, building off of recent, but overdue, success. As Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Comey and others have repeatedly warned, even small terrorist networks and lone wolves pose an online threat. As the only senior member of Congress serving on the two Committees with the largest cybersecurity oversight mission, I have made it my goal to ensure we are building an effective cybersecurity program across the federal government. It is imperative that DHS, the Department of Defense and other government agencies work hand-in-had to monitor and assist our critical infrastructure, and to support one another.
As the nation looks to tackle immigration reform, it is imperative that we gain operational control of the border. Even though Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act, which I authored, only 350 miles of fencing and 299 miles of vehicle barriers have been built along the 1,994 mile southwest border. Additionally, interior enforcement removal operations during the Obama Administration were down drastically from 2008 levels. Enhancing border security and enforcing immigration laws is not just an issue for border states. We have seen the consequences of weak policies throughout Long Island in terms of increased gang activity and a drain on social services. I look forward to working together with the new Administration to secure our international borders and enforce existing laws.