9/11 Commission Gives Government Failing Grades

Good reasons for Homeland Insecurity: Members of the 9/11 Commission issued a sobering assessment of the Bush administration’ s and Congress’ responses to the commission’s recommendations on how to protect the nation from terrorists. In a sometimes emotional call to action, the commission delivered a report card that underscores th government’s dismal performance.

“Here we are in December of 2005 and our government has still not passed some of the basic reforms to make our citizens a little bit safer,” said commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. “We are skating on thin ice; that ice is getting thinner and [is] about to crack.”

“If my children were to receive this report card, they would have to repeat a grade,” Roemer said. “We can’t afford to repeat the lessons of 9/11 and the losses of 9/11.”

“When will our government wake up to this challenge?” he asked.

For details on the report, click .

Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations Dec. 5, 2005, Thomas H. Kean, Chair Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chair Richard Ben-Veniste Fred F. Fielding Jamie S. Gorelick Slade Gorton Bob Kerrey John F. Lehman Timothy J. Roemer James R. Thompson www.9-11pdp.org

Part I: Homeland Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response


Provide adequate radio spectrum for first responders — F (C if bill passes)
The pending Fiscal Year 2006 budget reconciliation bill would compel the return of the analog TV broadcast (700 Mhz) spectrum, and reserve some for public safety purposes. Both the House and Senate bills contain a 2009 handover date — too distant given the urgency of the threat. A 2007 handover date would make the American people safer sooner.

Establish a unified Incident Command System — C
Although there is awareness of and some training in the ICS, hurricane Katrina demonstrated the absence of full compliance during a multi-jurisdictional/statewide catastrophe—and its resulting costs.

Allocate homeland security funds based on risk F (A if House provision passes)
Congress has still not changed the underlying statutory authority for homeland security grants, or benchmarks to insure that funds are used wisely. As a result, homeland security funds continue to be distributed without regard for risk, vulnerability, or the consequences of an attack, diluting the national security benefits of this important program.

Critical infrastructure risks and vulnerabilities assessment — D
A draft National Infrastructure Protection Plan (November 2005) spells out a methodology and process for critical infrastructure assessments. No risk and vulnerability assessments actually made; no national priorities established; no recommendations made on allocation of scarce resources. All key decisions are at least a year away. It is time that we stop talking about setting priorities, and actually set some.

Private sector preparedness — C
National preparedness standards are only beginning to find their way into private sector business practices. Private sector preparedness needs to be a higher priority for DHS and for American businesses.


National Strategy for Transportation Security — C-
DHS has transmitted its National Strategy for Transportation Security to the Congress. While the strategy reportedly outlines broad objectives, this first version lacks the necessary detail to make it an effective management tool.

Improve airline passenger pre-screening — F
Few improvements have been made to the existing passenger screening system since right after 9/11. The completion of the testing phase of TSA’s pre-screening program for airline passengers has been delayed. A new system, utilizing all names on the consolidated terrorist watch list, is therefore not yet in operation.

Improve airline screening checkpoints to detect explosives — C
While more advanced screening technology is being developed, Congress needs to provide the funding for, and TSA needs to move as expeditiously as possible with, the appropriate installation of explosives detection trace portals at more of the nation’s commercial airports.

Checked bag and cargo screening — D
Improvements here have not been made a priority by the Congress or the administration. Progress on implementation of in-line screening has been slow. The main impediment is inadequate funding.


Better terrorist travel strategy — Incomplete
The first Terrorist Travel Strategy is in development, due to be delivered by December 17, 2005 as required by PL 108-458.

Comprehensive screening system — C
We still do not have a comprehensive screening system. Although agencies are moving ahead on individual screening projects, there is lack of progress on coordination between agencies. DHS’ new Screening Coordination Office still needs to establish and implement goals for resolving differences in biometric and traveler systems, credentialing and identification standards.

Biometric entry-exit screening system — B
The US-VISIT system is running at 115 airports and 15 seaports, and is performing secondary screening at the 50 busiest land borders. But border screening systems are not yet employed at all land borders, nor are these systems interoperable. The exit component of the US-VISIT system has not been widely deployed.

International collaboration on borders and document security — D

There has been some good collaboration between US-VISIT and Interpol, but little progress elsewhere. There has been no systematic diplomatic effort to share terrorist watchlists, nor has Congress taken a leadership role in passport security.

Standardize secure identifications — B-
The REAL ID Act has established by statute standards for state-issued IDs acceptable for federal purposes, though states’ compliance needs to be closely monitored. New standards for issuing birth certificates (required by law by December 17, 2005) are delayed until at least spring 2006, probably longer. Without movement on the birth certificate issue, state-issued IDs are still not secure.

Part II: Reforming the Institutions of Government


Director of National Intelligence — B
The framework for the DNI and his authorities are in place. Now his challenge is to exercise his authorities boldly to smash stovepipes, drive reform, and create a unity of effort—and act soon. He must avoid layering of the bureaucracy and focus on transformation of the Intelligence Community. The success of this office will require decisive leadership from the DNI and the president, and active oversight by the Congress.

National Counterterrorism Center — B
Shared analysis and evaluation of threat information is in progress; joint operational planning is beginning. But the NCTC does not yet have sufficient resources or personnel to fulfill its intelligence and planning role.

Create FBI national security workforce — C
Progress is being made — but it is too slow. The FBI’s shift to a counterterrorism posture is far from institutionalized, and significant deficiencies remain. Reforms are at risk from inertia and complacency; they must be accelerated, or they will fail. Unless there is improvement in a reasonable period of time, Congress will have to look at alternatives.

New missions for CIA Director — Incomplete
Reforms are underway at the CIA, especially of human intelligence operations. But their outcome is yet to be seen. If the CIA is to remain an effective arm of national power, Congress and CIA leadership need to be committed to accelerating the pace of reforms, and must address morale and personnel issues.

Incentives for information sharing — D

Changes in incentives, in favor of information sharing, have been minimal. The office of the program manager for information sharing is still a start-up, and is not getting the support it needs from the highest levels of government. There remain many complaints about lack of information sharing between federal authorities and state and local level officials.

Government-wide information sharing — D
Designating individuals to be in charge of information sharing is not enough. They need resources, active presidential backing, policies and procedures in place that compel sharing, and systems of performance evaluation that appraise personnel on how they carry out information sharing.

Homeland airspace defense — B-
Situational awareness and sharing of information has improved. But it is not routine or comprehensive, no single agency currently leads the interagency response to airspace violations, and there is no overarching plan to secure airspace outside the National Capital region.


Balance between security and civil liberties — B
The debate surrounding reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act has been strong, and concern for civil liberties has been at the heart of it. Robust and continuing oversight, both within the Executive and by the Congress, will be essential.

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board — D
We see little urgency in the creation of this Board. The President nominated a Chair and Vice Chair in June 2005, and sent their names to the Senate in late September. To date, the Senate has not confirmed them. Funding is insufficient, no meetings have been held, no staff named, no work plan outlined, no work begun, no office established.

Guidelines for government sharing of personal information — D
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has not yet begun its work. The DNI just named a Civil Liberties Protection Officer (November 2005).


Intelligence oversight reform — D
The House and Senate have taken limited positive steps, including the creation of oversight subcommittees. However, the ability of the intelligence committees to perform oversight of the intelligence agencies and account for their performance is still undermined by the power of the Defense Appropriations subcommittees and Armed Services committees.

Homeland Security committees — B
The House and Senate have taken positive steps, but Secretary Chertoff and his team still report to too many bosses. The House and Senate homeland security committees should have exclusive jurisdiction over all counterterrorism functions of the Department of Homeland Security.

Declassify overall intelligence budget — F
No action has been taken. The Congress cannot do robust intelligence oversight when funding for intelligence programs is buried within the defense budget. Declassifying the overall intelligence budget would allow for a separate annual intelligence appropriations bill, so that the Congress can judge better how intelligence funds are being spent. Standardize security clearances B The President put the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in charge of standardizing security clearances. OMB issued a plan to improve the personnel security clearance process in November 2005. The Deputy Director of OMB is committed to its success. All the hard work is ahead.

Part III: Foreign Policy, Public Diplomacy, and Nonproliferation


Maximum effort by U.S. government to secure WMD — D
Countering the greatest threat to America’s security is still not the top national security priority of the President and the Congress.


Long-term commitment to Afghanistan — B
Progress has been made, but attacks by Taliban and other extremists continue and the drug situation has worsened. The U.S. and its partners must commit to a long-term economic plan in order to ensure the country’s stability.

Support Pakistan against extremists — C+
U.S. assistance to Pakistan has not moved sufficiently beyond security assistance to include significant funding for education efforts. Musharraf has made efforts to take on the threat from extremism, but has not shut down extremist-linked madrassas or terrorist camps. Taliban forces still pass freely across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and operate in Pakistani tribal areas.

Support reform in Saudi Arabia — D
Saudi authorities have taken initial steps but need to do much more to regulate charities and control the flow of funds to extremist groups, and to promote tolerance and moderation. A U.S.-Saudi strategic dialogue to address topics including reform and exchange programs has just started; there are no results to report.

Identify and prioritize terrorist sanctuaries — B
Strategies have been articulated to address and eliminate terrorist sanctuaries, but they do not include a useful metric to gauge progress. There is little sign of long-term efforts in place to reduce the conditions that allow the formation of terrorist sanctuaries.

Coalition strategy against Islamist terrorism — C
Components of a common strategy are evident on a bilateral basis, and multilateral policies exist in some areas. But no permanent contact group of leading governments has yet been established to coordinate a coalition counterterrorism strategy.

Coalition standards for terrorist detention — F
The U.S. has not engaged in a common coalition approach to developing standards for detention and prosecution of captured terrorists. Indeed, U.S. treatment of detainees has elicited broad criticism, and makes it harder to build the necessary alliances to cooperate effectively with partners in a global war on terror.

Economic policies — B+
There has been measurable progress in reaching agreements on economic reform in the Middle East, including a free trade agreement with Bahrain and the likely admission of Saudi Arabia to the WTO before long. However, it is too early to judge whether these agreements will lead to genuine economic reform.

Vigorous effort against terrorist financing — A-

The U.S. has won the support of key countries in tackling terrorism finance—though there is still much to do in the Gulf States and in South Asia. The government has made significant strides in using terrorism finance as an intelligence tool. However, the State Department and Treasury Department are engaged in unhelpful turf battles, and the overall effort lacks leadership.


Define the U.S. message — C
Despite efforts to offer a vision for U.S. leadership in the world based on the expansion of democratic governance, public opinion approval ratings for the U.S. throughout the Middle East remain at or near historic lows. Public diplomacy initiatives need to communicate our values, way of life, and vision for the world without lecturing or condescension.

International broadcasting — B

Budgets for international broadcasting to the Arab and Muslim world and U.S.-sponsored broadcasting hours have increased dramatically, and audience shares are growing. But we need to move beyond audience size, expose listeners to new ideas and accurate information about the U.S. and its policies, and measure the impact and influence of these ideas.

Scholarship, exchange, and library programs —D
Funding for educational and cultural exchange programs has increased. But more American libraries (Pakistan, for example) are closing rather than opening. The number of young people coming to study in the U.S. from the Middle East continues to decline (down 2% this year, following declines of 9% and 10% in the previous two years).

Support secular education in Muslim countries — D
An International Youth Opportunity Fund has been authorized, but has received no funding; secular education programs have been initiated across the Arab world, but are not integrated into a broader counterterrorism strategy. The U.S. has no overarching strategy for educational assistance, and the current level of education reform funding is inadequate.

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