Saturday, November 3, 2007

National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007 - Statement at introduction

Statement by Sen Collins upon introduction of the bill as it appears in the Congressional Record for Nov 1, 2007. Copy of bill not posted yet.


S. 2292. A bill to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002, to establish the Office for Bombing Prevention, to address terrorist explosive threats, and

[Page: S13693]  GPO's PDF

for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President. I rise to introduce the National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007, an important measure to strengthen our domestic defenses against terrorist attacks using explosives.

Terror bombings have a long and bloody history around the world and here in the United States. In 1920, for example, an anarchist bombing in front of the New York Stock Exchange killed 38 people and wounded hundreds more. More recently, the 1990s bombings of the World Trade Center and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and attacks in Indonesia, Spain, and Great Britain remind us of the vicious and indiscriminate threat posed by bombs. As Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has noted, they are the weapon of choice for terrorists.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security tell us that threat from these devices is not only real, but growing. Furthermore, the National Intelligence Estimate has identified improvised explosive devices or IEDs as a significant homeland-security threat.

As recent years' bombings demonstrate, the costs of inadequate precautions can be horrendous. And as the threat of bomb attacks by home-grown terrorist rises--witness the plot to bomb the JFK airport in New York--we must be increasingly on guard. Much effort and much funding has been directed to train and equip law-enforcement and other personnel to detect and disrupt bomb plots, yet we still lack a formal, full-fledged national strategy to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of those efforts.

The legislation I introduce today will improve our defenses against these weapons. I am proud to be working again with the bill's chief co-sponsor, Senator JOE LIEBERMAN, on this new effort to protect our nation.

The bill has also won the support of people directly involved in the fight against the threat of terrorist bombings. They include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board; the National Tactical Officers Association; the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators; the Maine Emergency Management Agency; and the police departments of Bangor and Portland, Maine.

The National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007 has three main elements: First, the bill will clarify the responsibilities of the DHS Office of Bombing Prevention and authorize $25 million funding in both FY 2009 and 2010, up from the current Senate-passed funding level of $10 million in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill now pending at conference.

Our national fight against terrorist bombings is a large and multi-faceted undertaking. It includes screening airline passengers, checking cargo, securing dangerous chemicals, protecting critical infrastructure, promoting research and development of anti-IED technology, and sharing information among Government and private-sector partners. The DHS Office of Bombing Prevention is a leader in this fight.

The Collins-Lieberman bill builds on the Office's past efforts. Among other things, the bill designates the Office of Bombing Protection as the lead agency in DHS for combating terrorist explosive attacks; tasks OBP with coordinating national and intergovernmental bombing-prevention activities; and assigns it responsibility for assisting state and local governments and cooperating with the private sector.

A key element of Federal assistance is training. Last week, for example, members of several Maine and Connecticut police departments received DHS training and briefings here in Washington, as well as an FBI update, and fresh information on improvised explosive devices. My bill will bring more of that training to the States and make it more accessible to local law-enforcement officers.

Second, the bill directs the President to accelerate the release of the National Strategy for Bombing Prevention and to update it every four years. As terrorists' tactics change, we must review and adjust our counter-measures to defeat them.

Third, the bill will promote more research and development of counter-explosive technologies and facilitate the transfer of military technologies for domestic anti-terror use.

My legislation is badly needed. We need to make sure that bomb squads have the latest and most accurate information on bombing threats. We need to raise awareness of the signs of possible threats, including purchases of pre-cursor materials and other suspicious activities. We need to improve information sharing and coordination of activities among all levels of government as well as the private sector.

Under my legislation, the Department of Homeland Security will have the legal authority, the responsibility, and the resources to ensure that state and local law-enforcement personnel receive the training and information they need to protect us.

The National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007 will give our country important new protections. The need for that protection has been amply demonstrated by repeated acts of savagery, and the threat of terrorist bombs continues to grow. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.

Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I rise today to join my Ranking Member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Collins, in introducing bipartisan legislation to strengthen our Nation's ability to deter, detect, prevent, and respond to attacks using improvised explosive devices, IED, in the U.S.

As we have seen in Iraq, London, and Germany, IEDs are a weapon of choice for terrorists. The reality is that an IED is relatively easy and inexpensive to make and can cause mass casualties, even to armored military personnel. IEDs are a global threat, and the American public, here at home, is not immune.

Federal efforts to address this threat, however, have not been adequate. The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Bombing Prevention, which is the Department's lead agent for IED countermeasure coordination, is currently operating with a substantially reduced budget of $5 million, down from the $14 million it received in fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Only $6 million has been requested for 2008. By contrast, the DHS Office of Health Affairs, which has a similar coordination responsibility for biosecurity and medical preparedness, has a proposed budget for personnel and coordination activities of $28 million for 2008. Given the likelihood of an IED attack, we need to make a comparable commitment in this area. As Secretary Chertoff said in an October 19 speech, ``although we can conceive of a terrorist attack that would be focused on a biological infection or some kind of a chemical spray, the reality is the vast majority of terrorist attacks are conducted with bombs. And of those, the vast majority are improvised explosive devices.''

The National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007, NBPA, would formally authorize the Office of Bombing Prevention, OBP, and increase its budget to $25 million. In addition to leading bombing prevention activities within DHS, OBP would be directed to coordinate with other Federal, State, and local agencies and fill the existing gaps that are not covered by another Federal agency's current bombing prevention efforts. For example, OBP would work with state and local officials to conduct a national analysis of bomb squad capabilities. This type of comprehensive assessment does not currently exist at any level of government, yet it is integral to understanding what resources are available in the event of an explosion and where we should invest in order to better prepare the Nation as a whole. OBP would also improve information sharing with state and local bomb squads by providing regular updates on terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures.

The NBPA would require the President to deliver a long awaited National Strategy for Improvised Explosive Devices. This Strategy was supposed to be delivered to Congress by DHS in January 2007 but was then reassigned to the Department of Justice by presidential directive. Turf battles have caused further delay. This is simply unacceptable. Regardless of who takes the lead, the Nation must have a coherent strategy guiding its counter IED efforts that will clarify the roles and responsibilities of all Federal agencies.

Finally, our legislation would require DHS to establish a program expediting

[Page: S13694]  GPO's PDF

the transfer of counter IED technology to first responders. Under this program, the Department would work with other Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the private sector, and state and local bomb experts to identify existing technologies that could help deter, detect, prevent, or respond to an explosive attack. Often, there is a significant lag time between the research and development of such technologies and deployment by the end user. This bill would hold DHS accountable for seeing products through to the deployment phase. Specifically, DHS would be required to develop an electronic countermeasures capability to disable radio controlled bombs. Radio ``jammers'' have been developed by DoD for Iraq and Afghanistan, but that technology needs to be significantly modified for the civilian environment.

Improvised explosive devices are one of the most popular weapons terrorists are using today. They can be easily assembled from instructions available on the Internet with readily available chemicals such as peroxide or ammonium nitrate. And, most importantly, terrorists all over the world have demonstrated their intent and ability to use these weapons to kill and maim large numbers of people. If DHS is to plan effectively for future attacks here at home, it must have a cohesive and robust defense against the most likely threats. I ask my colleagues to join us in ensuring DHS and its partners have the necessary tools to protect the U.S. from an improvised explosive device.

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