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Testimony by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff Before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

March, 9, 2005
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Lieberman and members of the committee. I’m pleased to be back in front of this committee to discuss the president's fiscal year 2006 proposed budget for the Department of Homeland Security. For almost two years now, the Department of Homeland Security has led a unified national effort to protect our country and our citizens from all manner of threats. It’s been an honor to join the dedicated men and women who carry out this task daily. Ours is a difficult mission – to prevent another deadly and catastrophic terrorist attack such as the one we experienced on September 11th, 2001.

Happily, over the two years that the Department has been in existence, there has not been a major terrorist attack here on American soil. That is a fact that might have seemed too much to hope for in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. It is a tribute to the President and to his leadership – and leadership team. But we cannot rest long on past accomplishments. We know our enemies won’t. They remain as resolute as ever in their desire to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. They are determined to adapt their methods and uncover new vulnerabilities in our security.

In order to meet this evolving threat we have to adapt and think anew as well. We not only need to focus on existing intelligence information but also about the dynamic threats that terrorists could pose in the future.  And at the same time, we must take a fresh, creative look at the organization, operations and policies of the Department itself. That’s why I have initiated a comprehensive review of the Department. We want to better understand what’s working and what isn’t. We will be evaluating every element of our working mission and making sure that the Department is best organized to meet the threats – both current and future – that face our nation.

I want to emphasize that our philosophy, our decision-making, our operational activities and our spending will be grounded in risk management as we determine how best to prevent, respond and recover from attacks. As part of our review of the Department, we will analyze the threats and define our mission and then seek to adapt the organization, operations and policies to meet those threats and execute that mission – not the other way around.

Our mission at all times remains one of the highest priorities of our nation and of this Administration. That’s why, in this year’s budget, the President has again affirmed his staunch commitment to the Department of Homeland Security mission by allocating $41.1 billion in new resources, a 7 percent increase over the current year. We will expand and improve existing programs as well as put in place new initiatives to further strengthen and protect our homeland.

The budget announces key structural changes, such as the consolidation of our research and development capabilities, the Screening Coordination Office and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The budget is organized around five themes: revolutionizing the borders; strengthening law enforcement; leveraging technology; improving national preparedness and response and creating a 21st Century Department. These new budgetary resources will enhance the effectiveness of protections already in place as well as contribute vital new layers of security.

Of course, while fighting terrorism was the reason for the Department’s creation, it is not our sole function. The budget supports the Department’s other functions, including responding to natural disasters, securing our coasts, and providing immigration services and enforcement are all essential parts of our mission. We owe it to the American people to bring the same dedication and energy to these tasks as we do to preventing terrorist attacks.

Of course, we must work with you to achieve our important objectives. This committee has supported and taken deep interest in the Department. I look forward to the opportunity in the coming months to engage with this Committee as we refine our ideas and recommendations for how best to achieve homeland security. Our shared goal is an America that is safe and secure, and also true to our fundamental values and civil liberties.

Let me conclude by saying, Madam Chairwoman, that while I have inherited a Department with a dedicated workforce and a strong foundation of excellence, ours is a job that will continue to be urgent in the days and months to come. I look forward to working with the committee and Congress in our shared effort to secure the blessings of peace and freedom for future generations of Americans.

Thank you.