Today, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and member of the Homeland Security Committee, joined Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and other leading House Democrats to unveil a comprehensive national security strategy. They discussed a new document, Ensuring America's Strength and Security: A Democratic National Security Strategy for the 21st Century. Below are Rep. Harman's remarks as prepared.
I want to salute our Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer, and my other colleagues for putting forward this set of careful, balanced proposals to ensure America's strength and security.
Protecting America, in war and in peace, has been a bedrock principle of the Democratic Party since World War I. From Wilson, to Roosevelt, to Truman and Kennedy and beyond, Democrats have led America with strong, robust national security policies.
It's time to reclaim that tradition.
Four years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, America launched a successful military invasion of Afghanistan to drive out al Qaida. That was the right approach.
But the threat has now changed. It is no longer a centralized, top-down terrorist group. It is a loose network of like-minded groups who draw inspiration from Bin Ladin.
As the New York Times magazine put it this past Sunday, the threat is no longer Al Qaida per se, but Al Qaida-ism … a virulent strand of radical Islam that is competing with moderates in the Muslim world … for the hearts and minds of the next generation.
Defeating this virulent strain requires more than just military power - although military power is indispensable.
Some have described this as a choice between soft power and hard power. I prefer to call it, as Joe Nye now does, our "smart power."
Democrats believe in using every ounce of our smart power to protect the American people - our diplomatic power, our economic power, and most of all, our moral power. But let me be clear: We're tough enough to pull the trigger, and we're smart enough to hit the target.
Let me now focus on one source of our power - intelligence. Intelligence is the tip of the spear in this era of terror.
Intelligence is vital to understanding the insurgency in Iraq (which we don't yet understand) … the threat posted by Iran and North Korea (which we don't fully know) … and the plans and intentions of terror groups around the world.
We've had 2 massive intelligence failures in the past 4 years. The first was on 9/11. The second was on Iraq's WMD programs.
As this paper argues, we need more accurate, more actionable, and more timely intelligence to disrupt our enemies before they attack.
The nightmare scenario - which I fear we are not prepared for - is that terrorists will get their hands on a Weapon of Mass Destruction and smuggle it into this country. To stop such a plot, we need actionable intelligence.
How do we do that?
I'm proud that the integration of the intelligence community under a single unified commander - the Director of National Intelligence - was a Democratic idea. The 9 Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee drafted the legislation that became the basis for this critical reform. Same for the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center.
But more - much more -- must be done.
We need to recruit and train intelligence officers who speak the languages to penetrate the hard targets. The problem is - if you are a patriotic American but you have a grandma in Baghdad, you can't get a security clearance. That's why we are urging a multi-tier security clearance system . . . so that we can leverage America's diversity into its greatest strength.
We must produce better analysis … so that we don't miss critical clues, as we did on 9/11, or lunge for the wrong conclusions, as we did in Iraq.
And we must end the dangerous practice of paying for counterterrorism with these huge supplemental budgets that the Administration puts forward. This practice prevents Congressional oversight, and it hinders the ability of our intelligence officers to plan operations.
Let me conclude by saying this. My fear is that the terrorists are already here. This month, a terror cell was rolled up in Torrance, CA, a city in my Congressional district. Their plot was to attack military recruiting centers and Jewish sites. It was hatched not in Khandahar but in a California State Prison.
As our friends the British found out with tragic consequences in July, the next threat may be homegrown. It may literally come from the boy - or the girl - next door.
If we are going to protect America, we must disrupt the plotters before they attack. Democrats are 100% committed to doing this … in a strategic way.
The major lesson from Katrina is that, as a nation, we have adequate capacity, but we have an inadequate strategy. We have the airlift, the helicopters, the trucks, and the busses to get relief to the field … but we didn't have a strategy to preposition and promptly deploy these assets to protect our people.
Wherever I travel in the world, I thank the men and women who stand on the front lines taking huge risks to defend our freedom … whether they wear an American uniform, or, in some cases, are undercover.
We owe it to them to put forward a strong, sensible, centrist national security policy agenda. This plan does just that.