“Our task is difficult. We must constantly assess our vulnerabilities and anticipate new lines of attack. We have done much, but there is much more to do,” the report’s authors wrote.
In the spirit of accountability, here’s a closer look at the areas where government failed or came up short.
Unity of command and effort
Recommendation: When multiple agencies are involved in responding to an event, there should be unified command, including communication.
Reality: Despite some success, as with the Coast Guard’s taking the lead during the gulf oil spill, community leaders and first responders tell the report authors that the problem of unified command has not been solved.
Increased radio spectrum
Recommendation: Congress should support pending legislation which provides for the expedited and increased assignment of radio spectrum for public-safety purposes.
Reality: A “political fight” over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum—the D-block—directly to public safety for a nationwide network has stalled efforts to implement this recommendation.
Recommendation: [T]here should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the [privacy] guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties.
Reality: Congress and the executive have passed legislation to create the board, but the president has appointed only two of five members, and Congress has yet to act on the nomination.
Recommendation: Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. Congressional oversight for intelligence—and counterterrorism—is now dysfunctional.
Reality: Committee structures in Congress mean that oversight for homeland security is divided among various committees, which the reports says “reflect the needs and economy of the 19th century, not the challenges of the 21st century.”
Recommendation: The current position of director of central intelligence should be replaced by a national-intelligence director with two main areas of responsibility: (1) to oversee national-intelligence centers on specific subjects of interest across the U.S. government and (2) to manage the national-intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute to it.
Reality: The director of national intelligence was created by Congress and enacted by the president, but there is ambiguity about the DNI’s role as leader of the intelligence-gathering community as well as the director’s authority over the budget and personnel in the community.
Recommendation: The Transportaion Security Administration and Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. The TSA should expedite the installation of advanced (in-line) baggage-screening equipment.
Reality: The system in place “lags in its capability” to automatically show concealed weapons and explosives. New whole-body scanners raise health and privacy concerns and have not been proven effective at detecting explosives in the body.
Leaving the U.S.
Recommendation: The Department of Homeland Security, properly supported by the Congress, should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit screening system.
Reality: An entry-evaluation system was put in place—it’s known as US-VISIT—but there still is no definitive way for officials to track when foreign nationals depart the country.
Recommendation: The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.
Reality: The REAL ID act established parameters for securing a driver's license, and while nearly a third of states are in compliance, the deadline for states to comply has been pushed back twice, first to May 2011 and then until January 2013.
Recommendation: The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists, and "[n]ew principles might draw upon Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict."
Reality: The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay remains open.
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