America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Yet, only a year after 9/11, there are signs that Americans are already lapsing back into complacency. This comprehensive report seeks to make the nation aware of the dangers it still faces by highlighting the nation’s vulnerabilities and outlining a number of homeland security priorities that should be pursued with urgency and national purpose.
The Bush administration deserves credit for the security initiatives it has already implemented in the wake of September 11, 2001. According to this report, however, significant risks still confront the United States. For example, local and state police continue to operate without access to terrorism watch lists produced by the State Department; an attack by a weapon of mass destruction on an unexamined container aboard a ship or truck might lead to a shutdown of America’s global transportation system, with attendant disastrous effects on the world economy; and first responders remain unprepared to handle a chemical or biological attack, which could lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Made up of two former senators, two former secretaries of state, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other homeland security experts, the independent Task Force recommends several key steps the administration can take in order to improve the nation’s security. They include fostering better links between local and federal law enforcement officials via the establishment of a twenty-four-hour operations center in each state that can provide access to terrorist watch-list information; recalibrating the agenda for transportation security by allocating more funds to protect land and sea networks, which are more vulnerable than commercial aviation; and funding, equipping, and training National Guard units around the country to ensure they can support the new state homeland security plans under development by each governor.