For fifteen years, the Department of Homeland Security has been in the business of keeping Americans safe. Since the Homeland Security Act of 2002 first authorized the Department, the men and women of DHS have worked tirelessly to uphold that mission.
They have made tremendous progress, and I am very proud to lead them for a small part of their accomplished history. However, the world is not the same today as it was when the Department was first authorized. Whether it is tragic terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, malicious global cyber campaigns, or stories of online Jihadist propaganda, the headlines are a daily reminder of the threats we face as a nation.
Despite our progress as a Department, we cannot keep the United States and its citizens secure with authorities drafted in a time before smart phones and social media. We need updated authorities, updated support, and updated accountability for the world we live in today.
H.R. 2825, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2017, which Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) introduced, would be the Department’s first ever reauthorization – and for certain parts of the Department would be their first actual authorization. This unprecedented legislation reflects the Department’s importance in our national security efforts, and solidifies our mission to protect our nation and its future.
This bill empowers the men and women who protect our nation to better carry out their wide-ranging missions. It replaces and modernizes outdated Coast Guard vessels, with an eye on making the most of taxpayers’ dollars. It allows us to study disaster preparedness and response, so we can find ways to help communities recover faster, in a cost-effective way. It gives first responders the training and equipment they need to counter today’s terrorist threats. And it improves the Department’s information sharing capabilities, so our state, local, tribal and territorial partners can stay up to date on the threats facing our communities, in both the cyber and the physical world.
I also appreciate the bill’s emphasis on improving morale throughout the Department. From the moment I took the office of secretary of Homeland Security, I have made it a priority to ensure the men and women of the Department are empowered to do the jobs they were trained and hired to do and get the credit they are due as they protect the homeland. I made it my mission to advocate for them – and yes, defend them – wherever I could, in the media and on the Hill. I’ve stood up for these men and women of conscience and character who do difficult, often dangerous jobs to ensure our country’s security. With this bill, Congress is showing a similar commitment to and respect for these professionals. With their support, we will be better able to recruit, retain, and train a qualified workforce, and give them the resources they need to be successful.
There is no more important mission – no duty more sacred – than protecting the people of the United States, and I strongly encourage members in both parties to support this legislation.