- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has missed dozens of deadlines set by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks for developing ways to protect airplanes, ships and railways from terrorists.
A plan to defend ships and ports from attack is six months overdue. Rules to protect air cargo from infiltration by terrorists are two months late. A study on the cost of giving anti-terrorism training to federal law enforcement officers who fly commercially was supposed to be done more than three years ago.
"The incompetence that we recently saw with FEMA's leadership appears to exist throughout the
Homeland Security Department," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (news, bio, voting record), top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "Our nation is still vulnerable."
Congress must share the blame for the department's sluggishness in protecting commerce and travel from terrorists, according to other observers.
Lawmakers piled on deadline after deadline for reports, plans and regulations while the department, created after the 2001 attacks, had to integrate 22 agencies with 170,000 workers and cope with terrorist threats and hurricanes.
"There's a lack of adult leadership on both sides," said James Carafano, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "The department just doesn't have its act together," he said. "Some of these deadlines are unrealistic."
The first response to the Sept. 11 hijackings was to prevent terrorists from taking over airliners with weapons and crashing them into buildings.
It became clear that more needed to be done after suicide bombings of railways in Madrid, Spain, and London, on a tanker near Yemen and on airplanes in Russia.
So Congress set more deadlines for more security measures.
Some were met. Many were not.
A law signed by
President Bush on Nov. 25, 2002, set a July 1, 2004, deadline for ships and ports to tighten security amid fears that terrorists might smuggle nuclear weapons in a cargo container.
The Coast Guard largely accomplished the undertaking. But much still remains undone: A report on how a grant program for shippers and ports would work is more than a year late; a report on cargo container security is eight months overdue; a national security plan for marine transportation is well past its April 1 due date.
Rep. Harold Rogers (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security spending, was unhappy because the TSA missed a March 17 deadline for a plan to deploy bomb-detection machines at airports.
Rogers, R-Ky., put a provision in the Homeland Security spending bill, signed into law Oct. 18, that withholds $5 million from the department until it submits such a plan.
Some security deadlines have been met, especially those set soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Within nine weeks of the hijackings, lawmakers ordered a federal work force to take over airport security, many more air marshals and the creation of the TSA.
Congress set 33 deadlines; a press release went out each time one was met.
One of the biggest deadlines was met with great fanfare when the TSA announced on Nov. 19, 2002, that it had replaced private airport screeners with a government work force.
The next year, then-TSA chief James Loy told Congress they had met "100 percent of the aviation screening mandates."
The TSA does not make those kind of announcements any more.