Thank you very much.
It is a pleasure to be here today. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Governor [Judy] Martz [of Montana] and the Western Governors’ Association for holding what is the third in a series of conferences on critical infrastructure protection and community partnerships.
In my capacity as Under Secretary of Commerce, I am responsible for managing a broad range of issues at the intersection of industry and security – whether it be national security, economic security, cyber security, or what is now known as homeland security. Indeed, in today’s world, U.S. industry and U.S. security are inextricably linked, and the public and private sectors must jointly address both economic and security issues.
The mission of my agency at the Commerce Department is to protect U.S. security, while at the same time seeking to advance U.S. economic interests. Critical infrastructure assurance and homeland security are important aspects of our mission. I serve as the Commerce Department’s representative on the President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, as the Chairman of the Board’s Standing Committee on Private Sector and State and Local Government Outreach, and as the official designated within the Commerce Department to coordinate all homeland security activities. In carrying out these responsibilities, I have developed a deep appreciation for the central role that state and local governments play in securing our nation’s homeland. The recognition and importance of this role is a relatively new development.
Historically, securing the United States has primarily involved engaging in diplomacy, guarding our borders, and, when necessary, projecting military force beyond those borders. Protecting America meant "keeping our neighborhood safe" in a global, geopolitical sense. Responsibility for this task fell almost exclusively on the federal government.
Now, however, the paradigm has shifted. The emergence of international terrorism within our borders has necessarily moved the "front lines" of homeland security from the State Department and the Pentagon to Main Street, U.S.A. Protecting our homeland against this new threat can no longer be accomplished by the federal government alone. Homeland security is a shared responsibility, in which state and local governments and the private sector must play vital and indispensable roles.
As the events of September 11 demonstrated, the first people on the scene of a major disaster are not federal agents, but the local emergency response teams. New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia demonstrated just how well this nation’s communities can respond to serious crises. If it were not for the outstanding planning and execution of both the state and local governments and locally-based companies, the consequences of the September 11 disaster would have been far, far worse.
We need this type of leadership at the state and local levels to survive terrorist attacks. The challenges are enormous. Our nation’s critical infrastructures and key assets are a highly complex and interdependent mix of facilities, systems, and functions that are vulnerable to a wide variety of threats. Whether it be our electric power grids, our water systems, our transportation and communication networks, or our banking and financial institutions, the sheer number, pervasiveness, and interconnected nature of our infrastructures create an almost infinite array of "high-payoff" targets for exploitation by terrorists.
The task of protecting such infrastructure assets is made all the more difficult because of the diffuse way in which these assets are owned and controlled. In other countries, many of these critical infrastructures are owned and controlled by the national governmental authorities, or by a relatively small number of major private sector institutions. Not so here. By virtue of our history, our federal system of government, and our philosophical orientation toward private ownership, many of these assets are owned and controlled by a broad range of private sector actors as well as by state and local governmental entities.
Given the immense size and scope of the potential target set, we cannot assume that we will be able to fully protect all assets at all times against all threats. We therefore must identify and pay special attention – but not exclusive attention – to those assets, systems, and functions that we deem most critical in terms of the consequences that an attack on them would have on the nation’s security, our economy, and the health and safety of our people.
Protecting our nation’s critical infrastructures and key assets is receiving the highest level of attention in Washington and will be among the highest priorities of the new Department of Homeland Security. We at the federal level will need to work with you at the state level to develop a uniform approach to determining critical assets and taking appropriate protective action. We also will need to work with you in developing a comprehensive assessment and alert system to ensure that any assets within your jurisdiction facing an imminent threat of attack receive appropriate and timely prior warning.
Homeland security, however, is not limited to the protection of critical infrastructures. It is a much larger concept.
September 11 made it clear that there are extremists in the world that reject freedom, modernization, social diversity, and political pluralism. It also became painfully clear on that tragic day that, in a globalized world, such extremists can reach us with relative ease.
One of the most important lessons from September 11 is that for many of these terrorists – including Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda – the targets of attack focus on our entire economy and on our way of life. In his taped messages, bin Laden has referred to the U.S. economy as the "key pillar of the enemy" and has called for strikes against various sectors of our economy "through all possible means." These actions indicate not only a desire by the terrorists to destroy the material resources of the American economy; they also imply a fundamental contempt for American values and the American character. The aim of the terrorists is as simple as it is twisted: They want to destroy what is uniquely and quintessentially American in the hope that our national power will collapse.
By attacking our economy, terrorists hope to drive us inward – to undermine our national will, compel us to abandon our global engagement, and cause us to retreat into isolationism. This new terrorist strategy intimately connects our nation’s economic security to our national security. That is why homeland security must involve more than protecting life and property within the borders of the United States from terrorism – though that unquestionably is of paramount importance. Homeland security also must involve preserving our way of life despite the fact that terrorist attacks may, on occasion, find their mark.
We must secure our homeland precisely so that we can continue to enjoy our freedoms at home and advance our interests abroad. By taking steps to secure ourselves – from the national level right down to the community level – we will be better able to maintain our global involvement, preserve our open and dynamic economy, and conduct ourselves in a manner that is fully consistent with our core values and beliefs.
One of the biggest challenges facing government and industry is not only securing our critical assets, but working together to manage public and market expectations so that terrorist attacks that may temporarily damage our infrastructures or commerce do not result in widespread disengagement from economic activity. In my view, it is this disengagement, as much as – or perhaps more than – the actual destruction of economic assets, that poses the greatest risk to our national economic security. Economic security, ultimately, is not about absolutely eliminating the risk of terrorism, but about maintaining an orderly functioning national economy notwithstanding the fact that terrorist attacks may occur.
This will require a different approach from that related solely to protecting critical infrastructures and key assets. Determining what is needed to protect critical infrastructures and key assets is largely a matter of mapping known threats against known vulnerabilities and assessing what needs to be done to eliminate or mitigate those vulnerabilities. In other words, the requirements for protective action are generally objective in nature.
On the other hand, determining what is needed to prevent widespread public disengagement from economic activity is not nearly so straightforward, because it is based largely on subjective factors. The extent of disengagement may not bear any relationship to the magnitude of the attack. Indeed, the recent sniper attacks in Washington D.C. demonstrated that significant economic harm can be produced with a relatively limited application of violent force. A dozen or so bullets brought parts of the local retail economy to its knees.
That is why I believe homeland security is as much a state of mind as it is a state of readiness and preparedness. It is a function of public confidence. Your leadership is essential to maintaining public confidence and creating public resilience in the face of future terrorist attacks.
Public confidence begins in the community. State and local governments, local businessmen and women, and the many members of the police, firefighting, and emergency medical communities form the vanguard of America’s response when terrorists strike. Public confidence, therefore, depends heavily on how well the community puts protective measures in place and plans in advance for a crisis.
Considerable work has already been done by you in securing the nation’s critical infrastructures against future attacks. Let me suggest that we also need to address how we engage other sectors of the economy in our homeland security activities – such as the retail, entertainment, and tourism sectors.
These non-infrastructure sectors represent powerful symbols of the American way of life. They may well present attractive targets for terrorists, especially as we get better at protecting our critical infrastructures and other key assets. We need to think creatively, therefore, about how to protect our softer targets. Indeed, we need to work with corporate America to develop the business case for enhanced security, so that companies institutionalize the process of identifying their own critical assets, assessing their vulnerabilities, and managing the risks associated with those vulnerabilities. Security must become as integral a part of a company’s strategic planning and operations as is marketing or product development. That is because security is now essential to business assurance and continuity.
In recommending this course of action, I do not wish to suggest that the federal government has all the answers. As I have stated, protecting our economy is an enormously complex and difficult problem. To do it effectively will require a collaborative effort between and among all levels of government and private industry. The federal government, for its part, needs to provide overall support, coordination, and focused leadership. In this role, the federal government can help create and foster an environment in which all stakeholders can better carry out their individual protection responsibilities.
One area that is being given considerable attention by the Administration, and by many of you at this conference, is information sharing. To successfully meet the challenges posed by international terrorism, federal, state, and local government officials, as well as private sector stakeholders, must have the ability to work together seamlessly. Development of accepted and efficient processes and systems for communication and information exchange is critical to bridging existing gaps and building an even stronger foundation for cooperation.
The difficulties and roadblocks routinely faced by those trying to share relevant information serve as major impediments to progress in the homeland security mission. Our current national threat collection, analysis, and dissemination processes need to be improved in terms of relevance and applicability to domestic infrastructure and key asset protection. Information users at the state and local levels sometimes complain that the information they receive from the federal government is vague, duplicative, and even contradictory. Nor do they feel that they always receive enough specific and accurate threat information to make difficult decisions as to resource allocation. Accordingly, local officials may inadvertently fail to address credible threats appropriately.
The bill that created the new Department of Homeland Security takes a major step forward in overcoming some of these problems. It establishes a number of mechanisms for improving the federal government’s ability to share sensitive information with state governments in a secure and timely manner. It also eliminates the problem that some state sunshine laws present to enabling state governments to safeguard critical infrastructure information from mandatory public disclosure.
As important as these new steps will be, there is no silver bullet here. An extraordinary level of trust, cooperation, and perseverance is still required to change the status quo. Federal, state, and local governments must make every effort to promote effective information sharing and embrace efforts to establish timely and useful paths of communication to those who need it most. As is so often the case in matters of public policy, this comes down to leadership. Leadership by the federal government. Leadership by you at the state level and by your local government counterparts. And leadership by the private sector.
In the end, we all now find ourselves on the front lines of U.S. national and economic security. Terrorists seek to undermine confidence in our public and private institutions and in our ability to manage the consequences of their attacks. In response, the federal government must work collaboratively and in partnership with state and local governments, with the private sector, and with local citizens. To the extent that government and private industry are seen to be doing everything within reason to protect the public from harm, the public’s confidence in its institutions will remain intact despite any attacks that may occur.