White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall discusses how the Biden Administration prepares for and responds to a broad range of threats to the Homeland.
The Kenneth A. Moskow Memorial Lecture on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism honors the memory of longtime Council member Kenneth A. Moskow, who made this event possible through a generous bequest. His intent was to establish an annual event to bring together the leaders of the intelligence community and promote discussion on critical issues in counterterrorism.
HAASS: Well, good morning. Welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting. It happens to be the Kenneth A. Moskow Memorial Lecture on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism with Liz Sherwood-Randall, who is the White House homeland security adviser.
Liz has had a long and distinguished career already, and something tells me it's not—it's far from over. She was the—she’s in this job since the start of this administration. That's two-plus years. Anyone who's worked in an administration knows it’s like dog years. She was the former—she was deputy secretary of energy in the Obama administration. She was also, in the Clinton years, deputy assistant secretary of defense, working closely with Ash Carter and Bill Perry. And, among other things, played a central role in the denuclearization of the former Soviet Union. Before that, she was a foreign affairs and defense policy adviser to a senator from Delaware by the name of Joe Biden. Most important, though, she was an intern some forty years ago here at Foreign Affairs magazine. So this is the homegrown kid done good, and she owes it all to the Council on Foreign Relations.
She is going to speak about things that fall within her writ. Somebody once said that foreign policy begins at home. Well, she is the homeland security adviser. She deals with all the domestic threats to our security and our democracy. Also though deals—is at the center of the conversation about migration—one of the most pressing issues on the agenda—on drugs, on terrorism. Increasingly, the lines between the foreign and domestic are blurred and artificial, so her writ extends very much to the—a big range of foreign policy and national security.
I should say, before turning things over to Liz, that the Kenneth A. Moskow Memorial Lecture on Homeland Security and CT honors the memory of a longtime Council member, Kenneth Moskow, who made this event possible through a generous bequest. And the whole idea was to establish an annual event where people in the intel community in the policy community can discuss issues dealing with counterterrorism. Keith Moskow is here. Keith, it’s great to see you here with us. Thank you for taking the time.
I probably should have introduced myself. After twenty years I'm still Richard Haass, and I'll be doing the conversation with Liz. We got members here in the room, over a hundred members in Zoom land. So we're going to begin with—Dr. Sherwood-Randall is going to replace me here at the podium, make some remarks. She and I then will have a conversation, then we'll open it up for questions from our members in the room and our question—and our members remotely.
Dr. Sherwood-Randall, it is yours. (Applause.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Good morning. Thank you, Richard. I am so honored to be here with you. Richard noted that I worked here at the Council as an intern. It was actually the summer of 1980. I was just before my senior year of college. And I came to be an intern for Bill Bundy, the legendary editor of Foreign Affairs. And it's always a thrill to come back to 58 East 68th Street.
I do want to express my gratitude to the Moskow family. We have Keith, Ken Moskow's twin brother, here with us today. And I understand that his widow, Shelagh, and his nephew, who is a U.S. Marine, Zachary, are Zooming in with us as well. For significant portions of his life, that was cut too short, Ken Moskow was a purposeful public servant, working on some of the world's toughest challenges and making a real difference in the security of our nation. We overlapped in work we did early on in countering nuclear terrorism, for example. So today it's a privilege to honor his contributions and his legacy. And thank you to the Moskow family.
I also want to recognize my friend Richard Haass. We have known each other for four decades, beginning with our earliest collaboration at the State Department where I served as his awestruck special assistant in the summer of 1983, when he was a deputy for policy in the European Bureau and George Shultz was secretary of state. Richard has dedicated his life to advancing American interests and values, both inside the halls of power and outside of government, in the homeland and around the world. He has anticipated and explained many complex challenges and what we need to do to manage them, including our current World in Disarray, which he predicted with the title of and the content of his prior book. We are all in your debt, Richard. And thank you for your many years of consequential service. And I don't think it's over yet for you either.
As the White House homeland security adviser, my job is most succinctly to do everything I can to prevent terrible things from happening to the American people, and to ensure that we're prepared to deal with those things that we cannot prevent, that happen despite our best efforts. Today, that means confronting a range of challenges far beyond the original remit of the homeland security adviser. Global and domestic terrorism, extreme weather, supply chain disruptions including baby formula and wildland fire hoses, trucker blockades, mass shootings, the fentanyl scourge, unprecedented hemispheric migration, the avian flu, adversarial threats to our critical infrastructure, and the list goes on.
The challenges are many, so we are deploying many tools to tackle them, including leveraging new technologies. These tools are helping us to deliver solutions that didn't exist a decade ago or even a few years ago. And as we harness technology’s transformational capabilities for good, we're also keenly aware that they can introduce new risks. So we work constantly to strike the right balance, elevating the positive potential of innovation that has changed our world while proactively managing its most pernicious potential. This morning, before Richard and I have our conversation, I'm going to give you three examples of homeland security priorities where we're doing just that—in countering terrorism, in strengthening national resilience, and in delivering biodefenses.
First, countering terrorism. The terrorist threat our country faces has morphed considerably since my White House position was created right after 9/11. We're still rigorously pursuing foreign extremist groups with carefully calibrated tools. We're still investing in our over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can still target terrorists without American boots on the ground, as we did in the Zawahiri raid in Kabul. But today, we're seeing more attacks with origins in our homeland. We're seeing a rise in racially and ethnically motivated extremism, including violent White supremacy. We're seeing such extremism move from the extremes of our culture to the mainstream. And we're seeing a rise in hate-motivated violence that lacks ideological ties to foreign extremist movements.
In other words, we're seeing a rise in domestic terrorism. Schools in Nashville and Uvalde, supermarkets in Buffalo and Boulder, massage parlors in Atlanta, synagogues in Colleyville and Poway. These incidents demonstrate the virulence of hate that is spreading in our land. In most cases, we see a toxic cocktail of alienation and personal challenges, fueled by conspiracy theories and hatred toward the other. And you can draw a line from these individual incidents to a broader trend of the normalization of violence in our country, in which a growing percentage of our population believes that it's legitimate to use violence to achieve their political ends.
This is a landmark shift in the terrorism landscape. And that's why the president in his first week in office, just weeks after January 6, charged us with building the first-ever national strategy for countering domestic terrorism. And that's why we're leveraging new technology tools to enable us to counter this growing threat, which itself is often incited by technology-enabled communications. For example, one year ago this month an 18-year-old White supremacist entered that supermarket in Buffalo, New York and began shooting, murdering ten people and injuring three more.
He had developed his plan by searching online for a place where Blacks would be marketing on a Saturday afternoon, where the most people could be killed. He tried to livestream is brutal, racist attack to recruit and inspire followers but his video was quickly removed. That was the result of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an organization that brings together governments, including the American government, and nearly two dozen tech companies, like Meta and YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft. Together, we've implemented automated tools that can quickly remove terrorist content online, helping prevent copycat attacks and reducing the risks of radicalization.
And this is just one example of how advances in the digital world have helped advance our counterterrorism efforts around the world and here at home. The United States has also joined with New Zealand, Twitter, and Microsoft to launch the Christchurch Call Initiative on Algorithmic Outcomes. Through this initiative, we're funding a nonprofit called OpenMined, spelled M-I-N-E-D, that is building new software that can grab and anonymize data from social media and then store it in a secure database. This database helps researchers study how algorithms are steering users to darker and darker places. And it helps us ensure that we protect our people and their privacy.
As we work to prevent deliberate attacks, we're also leveraging our technology to protect and preserve our national resilience in the event of natural disasters, which I'll describe briefly to give you a taste of the potential to use tech innovation to meet the needs of American communities. For example, we're deploying new sensor technology to give communities early warning of earthquakes. We're developing new satellite-based fire detection algorithms so that we can help get people out and firefighters in while a wildfire is still small and potentially very remote. And we're investing in advanced distributed generation technologies, like solar and battery storage, to strengthen our energy grid’s resilience and reliability in the event of a natural disaster or a deliberate attack.
As we integrate these new technologies into our toolkit, we're also taking steps to ensure that we're not introducing new vulnerabilities into our systems. For example, we understand that new grid technologies also create new nonphysical targets that can be attacked. So the Department of Energy and its national labs are partnering with private sector owners and operators of the grid to develop cyber defense technologies that authenticate contributions to the grid from distributed energy sources and screen out malicious actors at the same time. These are just a few examples, and there are many more that demonstrate how we're enhancing resilience while managing risk in the homeland.
Finally, in this quick summary, I want to mention the work we're doing in the realm of biodefense, especially given what we have just lived through that demonstrated the under-preparedness of the world to face a devastating pandemic and the highly disruptive impacts that it had in the homeland. Since day one of the Biden administration, we've worked to do more to prepare our country not only for pandemics, but for all biological threats. That's why we launched our new National Biodefense Strategy. It's why we're investing in mRNA vaccine research, which can—which are more rapidly adaptable and scalable than traditional vaccines. And that's why we're honing and harnessing metagenomic sequencing, a revolutionary technology that examines all the genomic material in a sample and identifies pathogens, even the ones that we don't know to look for.
As we seek the rewards of biotechnology and biomanufacturing, we're also intensely focused on the risks. For example, how do we ensure that the biotech we use to prevent threats is not misused to create new ones, including novel biological weapons? How do we ensure that the techniques used to support advances in biotechnology are not used to suppress human rights? We are tackling these questions by setting the norms and guardrails surrounding these powerful technologies. It’s a legacy of American foreign policy that we need to sustain far into the future.
That includes establishing a new Biosafety and Biosecurity Innovation Initiative, which involves every federal agency that funds, sponsors, conducts, or supports life science and biosecurity research. Together we're examining how we can reduce bio-risks, from establishing new biosafety practices to mitigating cyber vulnerabilities in biomanufacturing systems. And we have to lead the world in this direction too. Together with the private sector, we need to continue to reap the benefits of these technologies while we simultaneously work to constrain the evident dangers that they present.
So let me close with this: Today we do face a range of new homeland security challenges. And we're finding new tools and technologies to help us to deal with them. One thing that hasn't changed, and will never change, is the importance of working together across federal, state, and local governments, with the private sector and with universities, and with civic organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations. We are always stronger, and our country is always stronger, when we work together. To effectively meet current and emerging homeland threats, we need to build a more integrated and collaborative homeland.
As Richard Haass says in his recent new book, citizenship is critical to our long-term health as a society and as a nation. Being informed, getting involved, rejecting violence, valuing norms, and promoting the common good—those are all fundamental to our homeland’s wellbeing. So thank you for being engaged citizens and for being here with us today. I look forward to our conversation. (Applause.)
HAASS: Well, thank you, Liz. It slightly disarms the person asking questions if someone quotes from your book before you ask the question. (Laughter.) So thank you. So let's just talk about the domestic security, domestic terrorism. Let's call it what it is. It is—you know, terrorism is defined as the use of force—armed force for political purposes by nonstate actors. And that is—that's exactly what we have in this country. But it's difficult, it seems to me. We've got the First Amendment, obviously. We've got the Supreme Court just the other day saying those who provide the pipelines for social media are not liable for content, not in any way. Essentially, narrow Section 230 of the Governing Act. And then we have more than one gun per capita in this country.
Do you feel—you know, you've made this emphasis. Are we gaining—if one were going to do almost a movie rather than a snapshot, or compare where we were two years ago to now, in the aftermath of January 6th—how are we doing on this? What is almost the net assessment? If you if there was such a thing as a net assessment on domestic terrorism, how are we doing?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: It's a work in progress, I would say, Richard. So we did roll out the national strategy that I mentioned in my remarks for countering domestic terrorism. Can you all hear me well? I just want to be sure the mic is functioning correctly. Yes? OK. Exactly two years ago, in June—early June. And that is a very complex endeavor to implement. And we do it with guidelines that the president set for us, which is everything we do in this space we need to be sure that we're doing it in a way that doesn't actually stimulate the very effect we're trying to reduce. So we're a democracy. People are entitled to freedom of expression, freedom of association. So we have to get after this within the bounds of democratic norms and values.
To that end, we have established a lot of initiatives. Some of them are structural initiatives, like establishing a domestic terrorism section in the Department of Justice, which didn't exist before. And that section at DOJ is focused on working with our state and local partners in how we identify and ensure that domestic terrorism is being brought forth and, where appropriate, for prosecution at the federal level. But most often that's actually handled in states which have domestic terrorism statutes. We also are working intensively through the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on a huge effort to ensure that there is adequate intelligence and information sharing on a real-time basis about what's actually happening in our country.
HAASS: Can I just interrupt you on that? Because that gets into questions of privacy.
HAASS: So to—how does—do you feel that you—that we've got the balance right in our society? Or do you feel that privacy and freedom of expression and association guarantees, that the pendulum was a little bit too far in that direction? That just makes your job, already difficult, that much more difficult?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I think it's a constant tension, and we should exist in that tension. That is, we have to always ask ourselves the question: Are we over the line in what we're doing in terms of protecting privacy? At the same time, it—and I was going to get to this when I got to the third part of what I was going to describe, which is the massive investment in prevention. Because really what we need to do is get ahead of this and work in communities all across the country to prevent radicalization and also to prepare for the possibility that something might happen.
On the prevention front, the most difficult thing for us is—and we see this consistently, Richard, in the diagnosis of what happened in the wake of many of the mass shootings that I unfortunately have to brief the president about. That there was—there were indicators online of radicalization to violence. And we find in the aftermath, often it's a young White male who has been alienated and isolated, sometimes with mental health issues, who has been in chat rooms, has been discussing his increasing interest in defining himself through violence. And we can't get into that ahead of time. We don't have a predicate. Often there is no law enforcement record. And we respect the law.
So the question we are asking is: Is there a way in our democracy that we can use law enforcement tools in a way that enables us to see more sooner so that we know where we need to act? Now, some of this is on the tech companies. And I will say here, this is not passing the buck. This is a real issue for us, which is the tech companies have a responsibility for the online content that they enable. And we constantly call on Congress, and we work directly with the tech companies, asking them to take more responsibility for the powers that they have unleashed. Because these are being used for such pernicious purposes.
HAASS: The Supreme Court just last week did not—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Did not align with this call. But every American, whether you are in a red state, or blue state, whoever you voted for, whoever you will vote for, your communities are being affected by this violence. And we're all at risk. So this is a challenge for us. We are making some progress in some ways, with some of the companies. And we have much more to do on that front.
So let me just say on the prevention piece one more thing. Which is how much we are doing to support communities in developing prevention initiatives and funding them. For example, we have, through the FBI now, in every community a person who’s focused on—in every FBI field office in the country, an individual who's focused on working with state and local partners on domestic terrorism prevention, backed up with the kind of funding that we have through the Department of Homeland Security. And we see the results.
This is in the prevention in the sense of preventing lives lost. In Colleyville, Texas, the synagogue that—where worshippers were held hostage. That synagogue’s population had been trained under DHS programs in active shooter response. And they actually saved their own lives. They knew what to do in real time, and they got out. And so that's the kind of thing we, unfortunately, have to prepare for too. We’d prefer to prevent before it happens, but if not we need to empower our citizens to know how to respond.
HAASS: OK. I’m going to jump around too a few—you have a brief that has so many different dimensions. So let's talk about, you know, here we are in the city of New York. The mayor, for the last several weeks, has been publicly at odds with your boss, the president, over the border. And to the point where people who are coming here are now—the cost—we're not talking millions. We're potentially talking billions of dollars for an already financially strapped city. We don't have the physical facilities to deal with it. And, indeed, now he's in something of a fight with other mayors around New York state, about people who come here who we can't take care of.
You just had the lifting of so-called Title 42. What is your response to mayors like this one who basically say: We in New York are being asked to pay a disproportionate price for what you, the federal government, is not doing at the border?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I'll speak about it at a national level, in the way that impacts all our communities because this is a national challenge and, indeed, a hemispheric challenge. The scale of migration in our hemisphere is unprecedented. It's the result of many factors. It includes failed governance in the region. It includes economies devastated by COVID and impacted by climate change. It includes desperate people who really want a better chance for themselves and their families. And they have come to our border in a volume we've never seen before. We obviously inherited a broken system in January of 2021 for managing the border.
We were able to rely on the public health rule Title 42 that you mentioned for turning many migrants away during that period of time. We've just shifted this last month, on May 11th, to Title 8, which is the underlying immigration law that governs how we manage our border when people present themselves and claim asylum. The president has directed us to do two things which are important to managing migration over the long term. One is to create more legal pathways to our country so that people know that they can find a way to apply to come here without migrating irregularly. And the other is to enforce the rules and the laws that govern our border, and to work with our regional partners to ensure that enforcement is effective as well.
And so what we've done in this transition is mounted—basically built a machine, is how I would describe it, which is multidimensional and which involves the enforcement of a new rule, which sets a higher bar for claiming asylum in our country and which enables us to return those who have come as economic migrants, without seeking access through one of the legal pathways that are available. And we have many legal pathways available, including work visas, including applying for refugee status, including family reunification, including our parole program for certain countries where the governance is extremely—with authoritarian governments, or governments that are really failing, such as Haiti.
That efforts to show people an alternative at the same time that we work with our regional partners to enforce the interdiction of migratory pathways where individuals are largely being exploited by traffickers and smugglers, highly vulnerable humans in the grip of these people taking their money and moving them through dangerous jungles, like the Darien Gap, are now being stopped by our partners. The Mexicans are doing this in their southern migratory corridor. The Panamanians and Colombians are working on the Darien Gap with our enabling support. And the goal there is to arrest the migratory flows north and guide people toward applying for legal pathways to our country.
At the same time, Richard, as you noted, we have a lot of people who have already come into the country, and we'll have more who come in, and who come in on parole. Our mayors have asked for help, and we are providing help to cities that need it most and will continue to provide that support with federal funding, which the city of New York knows it has access to. And it's asking for more. And we're working to identify whether there's more support for New York. And there are many other cities that need it too.
Ultimately, America is a very generous country. And what we've seen with a number of the populations that we've welcomed over the last two years, the Afghans, the Ukrainians, is that when we work within communities to identify sponsors and build support with local organizations, there's a lot of receptivity. We're all a nation of immigrants. I mean, unless you're a Native American you—someone in your family came from somewhere else, and was welcomed to this land, and was able to build a better future. And so what we're doing is working to also help communities see this as a net benefit rather than a net burden.
HAASS: So the initial predictions of when you were lifted Title 42 were fairly dire. It hasn't come to pass. I guess two parts. One is, is it your sense that this is temporary or that you think you've now come across a—likely to be a durable—I don’t want to use the word solution—but at least approach to manage a problem—to manage a situation, not solve a problem? And if so, why do you think this seems to be working better than anticipated?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So I wouldn't say that we're done with this. I think we have to sustain this level of effort as far into the future as we can see. And there are long-term challenges in the region which we need to be addressing, whether it's the root causes of migration, some of the climate effects I described, governance issues in many countries. There are reasons people migrate. And we need to be working on that through our foreign policy tools and our economic tools. But for us, I think, Richard, the lesson learned here is that we have to combine deterrence and enforcement with legal pathways. Those things have to be paired. And we have to have the support of our regional partners.
And their President Biden launched the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration last June. That was an effort to bring together twenty-one countries in the region around a concept of burden sharing. And so what we've done is build on that for the last twelve months so that we do have partnerships with so many countries in the region who have agreed to do things like stabilize migratory populations in their own countries through temporary protected status, provide repatriation flights for those who need to be returned to their own countries who don't have a grounds for staying in the United States but who migrate here irregularly, work with us on some of the enforcement that I described.
So there's an organism that we had to build. And it's now functioning. We have to keep—as any live organism needs it—we have to keep nourishing it. We'll have to keep inventing new things. We'll have to keep providing investment. We'll have to keep working to cultivate the relationships that deliver for us.
HAASS: So you’re ready to declare progress, if not victory?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Progress, not victory. And we have to keep refining the tools, because this is a situation in which, unfortunately, the traffickers will continue to try to outwit our systems. And so we have to get ahead of that as well.
HAASS: Let’s talk about drugs. You know, the numbers on gun deaths in this country are thirty thousand, forty thousand a year, at the rate we're running. That's only a third—as horrific as that is—it’s roughly a third—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: As synthetic opioid deaths? Yeah.
HAASS: Yes. So what, if anything, is conceivable to do in terms of reducing the inflow and the effects of that?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Huge amount of work underway on that, and not showing sufficient results, is what I would say. So Richard's right, the fentanyl scourge, and more generally synthetic opioids, are devastating our communities and, in particular, our young people. And the lethality of fentanyl, and the lethality of fentanyl that is mixed with this veterinary drug that is xylazine, which is a way that veterinarians reduce pain in conducting procedures for their animals, is something that is killing people almost instantly. And so we are working in multiple dimensions on this. Let me describe several that I can be very specific about.
One is the president charged me with leading an effort with Mexico, because Mexico is the principal pathway through which fentanyl is coming into our country. And it's coming in both in powder and in pill form to our country from Mexico. So because of the nature of this problem, we've gone straight to the top in Mexico. I work directly with the president of Mexico on this challenge. We are building work with both the Mexicans on interdiction at their ports, where much of this comes in. Our Department of Homeland Security is working directly with the Mexican military, which has been assigned the duty—the Navy in particular—of interdicting the arrival of fentanyl into Mexico. I'll get to where it comes from in a second.
And we're working to enable the Mexicans to do better with technology, identifying what's coming in with intelligence, identifying what's coming in. And then, importantly, working with our Department of Justice, and their Department of Justice—and their Department of Justice to prosecute those who are actually bringing the fentanyl in and moving it through Mexico. Busting up the production facilities, which with fentanyl aren't big facilities. These are little operations in what looks like someone's home. We've got to get after that too, and stop the production. Then we have to stop the trafficking through our border into our country. So that's work underway with Mexico.
And they have significantly raised their game because they are now seeing the danger to their own country. This is really about self-interest. I'll say when you work with other countries, as you know well, Richard, much of what you get a country to do is not out of charity. It's out of self-interest. Also, there may be trade space where you want them to do something. they want you to do something. You can match that up. But here, Mexico realizes it has a problem too.
I talked about the challenge of where it's coming into Mexico from. The biggest challenge is China. And we have much work to be done in persuading the Chinese that they need to get after the business of—the business of trafficking the precursors to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids out of China into Mexico and other places. We are sanctioning some Chinese entities. We are building a global coalition modeled on the global coalition that we built to counter ISIS. We announced and when the president was up in Canada with Justin Trudeau, and prior to that at the North American Leaders Summit, actually, in Mexico City in January, that we're building a Global Coalition to Counter Fentanyl. There will probably be eighty-or-so countries that participate in the initial inaugural gathering, which will take place this summer.
And the goal there is to rally the world around this scourge, and to ensure that everybody uses the leverage that they have to prevent the precursors from being moved into our countries—from the drugs being assembled and then from the drugs being used to kill, especially our children.
HAASS: When people in Congress talk about being tougher on China or Mexico, either expanding the sanctions against China about designating cartels and the like as foreign terrorist organizations, is it your view that that would simply be irrelevant or even counterproductive? Because obviously you haven't done it. So what is the thinking in the administration about these congressional calls for—you know, for changes in policy?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So, there are five pieces of legislation right now before Congress on various elements of this. And some of them have very useful dimensions, and we're working with Congress to figure out how we can get some legislation passed that would be relevant to getting after this problem. We don't think a foreign terrorist organization designation is particularly helpful. But there are a lot of other things that we can do. We need to schedule some of these drugs, like xylazine. We need to have more tools for interdiction. We will not get after this unless we have a whole-of-world effort to tackle it. And so we are trying to build that.
I will say the other piece of this which is really very domestic is how important it is that we're communicating with our communities, with our kids, about the dangers of this drug. And our Office of National Drug Control Policy is putting out a constant stream of videos and specifically targeted on the platforms that our young people use. So having social influencers on the platforms that that are most seen not by people like us to get at them on the point that you really need to be careful about what pill you take, and you ought to have naloxone with you, because we have decided to enable the access to the drug that can save your life over the counter. There's a debate about whether that's a good thing. Does it enable the use of fentanyl? Our judgment is we can save lives and kids are going to take fentanyl, we need to do everything we can to help save their lives.
HAASS: Last question from me, because I want to save time for our members. What is your sense about the political orientation both of law enforcement and the military? And are you worried about the inroads that—to where we began our conversation—of political extremist organizations and ideologies on the very organizations we are going to turn to in extremis to help us against those who are so organized and motivated?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Of course, I have to be worried about that, Richard. And we do have some data that suggests that there is some—in the federal workforce, there is some inclination this direction. Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, launched a big initiative focused on the issue of extremism in the military ranks. We also are concerned about the evidence of some extremism in the veterans community. We also have to take seriously the prospect of politicization and potential radicalization of law enforcement at the state and local level. And one of the things that we see that is most disconcerting is the use of law enforcement for political purposes.
And there, for example, we're seeing the governors of some states use their National Guard—so that's military, not law enforcement, but similar things happen with the law enforcement community—directing them to take action that's in contravention of federal policy and action. That is where they are deploying National Guard without coordination with the federal guard who are at the border, working with the Customs and Border Patrol. So we've seen recently a call to rally guardsmen from Republican states, specifically, by the governor of Texas, to come and help out in policing the border.
That's not a way, I think, that we should be conducting our nation's business. I think we need to work as one government with unity of effort. And it's dangerous. It's dangerous for a lot of reasons. And it's something that is, I think, putting us at extreme risk.
HAASS: OK. Lots of scope for questions. I didn't get to possibilities of new outbreaks of infectious disease. I did not get to the effects of climate change. I did not get to drone strikes in faraway places. So you're welcome to mine areas I've begun with or to take us afield to areas I haven't had the wit. As always, on the record, raise your hand, let us know who you are, keep it succinct. We'll ping-pong between people in the room and people remote.
Yes, ma'am, the second table there.
Q: Thank you so much. I am going to touch on climate change, Richard, so I appreciate that. I appreciate you being here with us today.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Who are you?
Q: I'm Chloe Demrovsky, President and CEO of Disaster Recovery Institute International.
So you touched on this briefly, but in yesterday's New York Times, it touched on the devastating impact that a grid failure in Phoenix would have on public health and human lives. That could happen because of extreme weather, climate change, but also because of a cyberattack or a terrorist incident. So what are you doing both internally and externally to be able to coordinate the preparation for this and make sure that we as a nation can respond effectively? Thank you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Chloe. So Richard noted, I've been the deputy secretary at the Energy Department in the second half of the Obama second term. And we were getting after this problem already there. And lots of work has been done subsequently. The most—I mean, there are many dimensions of how we're getting after this. Internally, what we do as a government as we prepare for the—what we call the full-spectrum or all-hazards scenarios of things that could disable our nation. And I think one of our most significant vulnerabilities is the soft underbelly of our country that keeps us running. And that's the power grid, which enables everything.
And so going back to the Obama administration, and coming forth to the present time, we exercise a great deal with our industry partners because more than 90 percent of the grid is in private hands, with state and local partners. And we prepare for what could happen and what we would do about it. And we test that proposition constantly. Are we ready enough? We're never ready enough. That's why we exercise. We always discover that there are weaknesses that we need to address, vulnerabilities that we need to address. And so that is ongoing and will never end.
HAASS: Is the private—is the fact that 90 percent in private hands—is that a strength or a weakness of our system? And, basically, do you feel you have the authorities you need to set the standards that the private entities need to meet, to meet your resilience requirements?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: That is also a work in progress, like everything we're talking about. And this actually is kind of a theme of what I'm saying, Richard. Democracy is obviously a work in progress. We're always needing to do better and develop new approaches when we don't have all the tools that we need. We do have not—I would not recommend that the government own the entire power system in our country. That would not be something I would shift to. I do think it would be useful to have a more integrated grid. And I—and we work in that direction. I think we also need some greater authorities to mandate the kinds of standards that would enable us to ensure that the private sector entities are making the investments they need to in resilience. And we've made progress in that regard in our administration.
I want to just get after the point about what are we doing externally. I mean, obviously, a huge amount of investment, as I noted in my remarks, in the kind of innovation that needs to be deployed at scale to build a resilient grid of the future that has the capacity to manage multiple sources under multiple conditions. So conditions—normal conditions and extreme conditions. And when you're incorporating renewables, you have to have baseline power that will ensure that when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, you have the access you need. Is that storage? Is that something else? All of that has to be incorporated and managed in real time, and it has to be resilient against attack, whether it's a cyberattack, or whether it's an attack that disables some part of your system. Then you may be able to isolate that part and bring in energy from others.
That's why I noted we need a more integrated grid. We saw in Texas in the beginning of the administration, the first weeks I was in this role, the entire grid basically froze. They had not invested in resilience. They're an islanded energy system. That's not good when you face what they experienced. And so we challenged the state of Texas, don't you want to have some greater integration? I'll note here one thing.
HAASS: How’s that going, by the way?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, I want to note something which has been—I observed the point that we have the politicization of the guard in a way that I think is not constructive. But I also work very closely with governors, regardless of their politics, on emergency response. So whether it's in Texas, or in Florida, in red states or in blue states, our mandate from the president is: You help Americans in need. We know that Americans who have the greatest need in the face of a natural disaster had the least access to it. And we have been getting after that problem in a way that has never been attended to before, to build a FEMA that is focused on reaching those who really need the help rather than waiting for them to request help. And that has been a transformational thing in our emergency response.
In addition, we're investing in resilience through FEMA, through programs in which we ask communities to make proposals to us for how they want to build their community resilience. And then we help them to do that, again, getting ahead of the disaster so we have stronger communities in the face of what's coming our way. And we're looking at the training of the capacity in communities that are weakest to help them to recover from a disaster more effectively. We see this time and again, a state like California or New York is very experienced disaster response. We have other states that are impacted which have much less capacity. We want to strengthen that capacity before the disaster happens. And it's regardless of politics.
HAASS: OK. Yes, sir, at the table there. I can see that far. You got a microphone there.
Q: Hi, Liz. Fred Hochberg. You were very helpful when I chaired the Export-Import Bank.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Fred, yes! And you were very helpful when you chaired the bank. (Laughs.)
Q: I want to pick up on Richard’s last question. I mean, it seems that—I believe it was a few years ago, the FBI identify that they've really ignored domestic terrorism, ignored White supremacy. So there's a deep cultural issue there which doesn't get remedied by just a flick of a switch. So can you understand some of the cultural issues that we ignored this, and how we really change the culture of those institutions that they really look at this in a much more deliberate fashion than they have in the past?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I mean, Fred, leadership matters. So leadership starts at the top with the direction from the president to the attorney general and the FBI director to build capacity within their institutions—and of course, FBI is that an element of DOJ—to identify this problem and to work on it, to prevent, to disrupt, and to prosecute. And that's the work they're doing every day now. And, as I noted, FBI now has in each of its field offices somebody who's focused on domestic terrorism. We're ensuring that the information flows back to DOJ to evaluate what's happening in communities, to make sure that at a federal level where we need to we're getting after that with the statutes that we have available to us. As you know, we don't have a federal domestic terrorism statute. We have hate crime statutes, which we can use and which we do use.
HAASS: Would it help to have one?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Maybe. We have thus far judged that's not the—what's the—what is most necessary. And that also has potential downsides. But it's conceivable we'll get there. I think the most important thing is building that capacity and the sensitivity to this, Fred. The need to be paying attention to gathering the intelligence, to assessing that information in real time, and deciding where to put our resources, human and material resources.
HAASS: Let's go to the land of Zoom.
OPERATOR: We'll take our next question from Mark Edington. Mr. Edington, please accept the unmute now prompt.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: How do you choose—
Q: Hi, thanks. Good morning, New York from Paris. I hope you can hear me. Thank you so much for your presentation. Ken Moskow was a friend of mine, and I'm very glad to see his legacy continued in these lectures.
I'm calling you from Europe. And my question for you is about White supremacy and the work of the United States in working collaboratively with governments in other countries, especially here in Western Europe, about the rise of White supremacist movements, especially as they've been fueled by Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Can you say a little bit more about the importance of working together, which you emphasized, in that context?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I'm so glad you asked that question. It's a really important question for all of our democracies. And it's true in Europe that we're facing White supremacy on the rise. It's true in other parts of the world, our democracies are seeing this. The Australians are facing it. The New Zealanders are facing it. And we work collaboratively with each of these countries to learn what is happening, to identify where there is incitement that is taking place online. And there we have additional tools when we're outside of our own country to be able to discern where there is communication.
I noted that we're not seeing most of our domestic terrorism incited by ideological groups overseas, but we do see communication among these groups that have similar racist and ethnocentric ideologies. And we're working to learn and exchange best practices with our democratic partners. I talk with my British counterpart in 10 Downing quite frequently. I work with my French counterpart in the Elysée, German counterparts who face a particular sensitivity and commitment to addressing this given their Nazi past. The Germans had additional statutes and authorities to get after domestic terrorism and had been quite aggressive in doing so. We're learning from how they do it. We meet with our Australian and New Zealander partners.
And basically, what we're all trying to figure out at the same time is how can we strengthen our democracies? How can we reduce the motivation and mobilization to violence that can occur, online in particular? How can we ensure that we protect our democratic values, as I noted earlier, and at the same time prevent this problem from metastasizing in our homelands?
Q: Hi. Thank you. Munish Walther-Puri, a VP of cyber risk at Exiger.
You talked about supply chain risks and disruptions, shocks. It seems like one of the lessons from there is there's this gap between how industry understands their supply chain, how government understands their supply chain. I wonder if you might talk about closing that gap, and specifically the national security risks of foreign ownership and critical infrastructure. Thank you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, you asked a lot of questions there. So I'm not sure which one to focus on.
HAASS: They were very packed in.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Yeah. I mean, the—we could talk about all the different supply chain risks we've experienced and how we're addressing them. I'll just note that one of the things that has been most evident is that the way in which companies have managed their economics has created great supply chain challenges for us, because if you only bring in what you need and wait to bring in more until you need more, and you face a shutdown in access, you have very little resilience. And so what we have worked now to move away from with—in multiple sectors is that notion that you would not stockpile sufficient supply for a shock.
I'll give you a specific example of that. When truckers blockaded Ottawa and then decided also to blockade some of the northern border crossings between the United States and Canada, we immediately received calls from the automobile industry heads in this country saying, we're going to have to shut down manufacturing within twenty-four hours because we rely on access to those imports literally on a daily basis. And we don't have any—a backup supply for manufacturing. And we worked, of course, to unblock those crossings. But more important, that challenge then to industry is to figure out how to manage their economics and not be so vulnerable to a supply chain shock.
HAASS: So, normally, you would think of friend-shoring with Canada as a pretty safe, resilient thing.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: It is. It is. But we're in—we’re in a different time. That's the point, Richard. We're in a time in which things can happen that are never before experienced. We've never had a blockage of our borders by those who oppose COVID mandates, masking mandates, or having to show that you've had a vaccine before you come in or out of the country. These are new things. So we have to anticipate the kinds of things that we've never anticipated before, and prepare for them.
On the issue of our vulnerability of what we import into our systems, there is no question that we are, and need to continue to, build systems in which we have confidence that our supplying our national security enterprise and our economy, because we know that there are adversaries who want to use their sales into our economy to create vulnerabilities. And those who are able to diagnose these threats make it very clear that we can't afford to have that continue. So we're taking a lot of action, as you must be aware, given the work that you do.
HAASS: I also think, in my experience, lots of businesses are moving from the just-in-time to just-in-case. There's been a slight shift in emphasis. I think people have learned some lessons the hard way, because of COVID and some of those issues.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Yes. So that's the first point, is about just-in-time to just-in-case. The second point is, who do you depend on? And obviously, we're trying to onshore, or whatever your word is, a lot of what had been outsourced to other countries. The most significant, of course, is the production of chips in our country.
HAASS: We have another name for that, but you won't like what we—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: What’s your name?
HAASS: Somewhere between industrial planning and protectionism. (Laughs.)
HAASS: Well, but Richard, I think what we learned—I mean, industrial—an industrial policy that invests in America and which builds jobs for Americans and secure supply for Americans, while recognizing that we live in a global economy, is to our benefit.
HAASS: That's a conversation for another day.
HAASS: Yes, sir.
Q: Hi, Jonathan Guyer with Vox. Thank you so much.
Understand that the White House is close to putting out a counter-antisemitism strategy. And there's some debates about how one defines antisemitism. I wonder if you can get into that a little bit. And this is also part of a bigger effort to counter Islamophobia, associated bigotries. Why did you guys pick antisemitism first as part of this strategy?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks for asking that question. So I'm the cochair of the effort to produce a National Strategy on Countering Antisemitism. And we decided to do this because the rise in antisemitism is astonishing. Never before seen in this country. And again, associated with what I described in my remarks, which is the normalization of violence. So we're not only seeing the kind of antisemitism that led to my mother being chased home from school in Omaha when she was a little girl, but that there's actually increasing violence against our Jewish communities, threats of violence, acts of violence in synagogues. People are living in fear.
And we decided after the United for Hate Summit that we convened last year that the first piece we would pull out, also in collaboration with Congress which was calling for this—the bipartisan, bicameral Antisemitism Task Force on the Hill was keenly interested in our developing an approach that was comprehensive. So we decided we would put together a strategy. When we say strategy, what it means is a government-wide, nationwide implementation plan for getting after this challenge. And it will be not dissimilar to the domestic terrorism strategy in terms of how we approach these problems, but it's very specific to antisemitic violence.
I'd add that we anticipate that we'll have other strategies as well subsequently. And that the fourth dimension of what we will announce shortly, so I don't want to get ahead of it because you can look for an announcement of this strategy sometime in the coming days, is that the fourth dimension will involve the imperative of partnership. And I can't underscore that enough. No group that is feeling threatened can secure itself alone. And we all need to be allies in this country, standing up for threats to anybody who is being threatened for being who they are. That's what America is built on. And that's what we have to stand for. And we need to stand together in fighting it.
Q: Thank you. Stuart Rabin, Nine Thirty Capital and Decision Sciences International.
HAASS: Put the microphone a little bit closer, sir.
Q: Sure. In today's remarks, you commented, as you did in the presentation at the Nuclear Threat Initiative two months ago in the unveiling of the WMD strategy, on the critical importance of working with private industry. Many folks, like me, in private industry have had difficulties working with various government departments, DHS CBP, for example, specifically in dealing with the interdiction of things like radiological and nuclear materials and fentanyl, and synthetic opioids. What can we do about that? How do we address the bureaucratic inertia, the lack of adoption of new technologies, and important things related to those topics in a more efficient way? Thank you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I say, with humility, I'm sorry to hear this. And it's not at all surprising. It is a huge problem. It's onerous to deal with government. And that's not good. And it's especially not good because we need the strengths of the private sector in technology innovation, I described this also earlier, to help us meet all the challenges we face. The Defense Department needs access to technologies that used to be developed within DOD but now are principally generated in the private sector in which DOD has to identify and then find a way to bring in. We need probably whatever you're doing that you can't find a way to share.
I can't give you a perfect answer, but only to say that we are aware of this challenge and trying to fix it. And we are trying to make ourselves accessible as leaders to those, like you, who want to find a way in. If you'll be sure to give me your card, I'll pass it along to my colleagues who will be in touch with you. It's a big problem that there's a seam between us, or maybe a chasm is better, but also that we make it so difficult to deal with us that many will just say it's not worth it. And then we don't benefit from the technology innovation that's out there. So I apologize, but we'll try to address it in your case, at least to get you a proper conversation. And then I'll take that back also for further work.
HAASS: Liz, you’ve been affiliated with the Council for four decades. One of the few things that has not changed is we tend to begin and end on time. I want to respect your time. You got to get back to our nation's capital. I want to respect the time with people in the room and on Zoom. But before going, I simply want to thank you. What you've heard is someone who has an extraordinary brief, extraordinary responsibilities. We are all the beneficiaries of it. So thank you for what you do.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you, Richard. (Applause.)