Chertoff speech addresses FEMA’s role in DHS

DHS secretary points to value of having response, prevention and intelligence organizations together


The following was a speech given by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Dec. 3, 2008, before a gathering at Johns Hopkins University.

Secretary Chertoff: Now, from my standpoint, as I look forward to the next year, of course a new Administration is taking office. One thing that means for me is that I will not have to live through another hurricane season. I’m used to spending the last four years over the summer, particularly in August when everybody else is kind of kicking back and thinking about how to best enjoy the summer holidays, I’m used to carefully watching the weather reports to see if a cyclone is forming somewhere in the Atlantic and the Caribbean which looks like it’s going to spoil my holiday and, of course, this past year, as is not uncommon, I spent much of my time during the summer down in the Gulf dealing with the anticipation of the hurricane and the aftermath of the hurricane.

But before I get into the meat of my speech, I want to make a couple of remarks on some related but distinct topics. First, I want to encourage all of you who are not already working at the Department of Homeland Security, and I know some of you are, to consider the department as a potential future career choice.

If you are motivated to help other people, if you’re motivated to defend the country, we have a very wide range of options, whether it’s working for Transportation Security, Customs and Border Protection, Science and Technology. I think if you look at what we do, almost any interest, whether it’s an analytic interest or an operational interest, can find a place at the Department of Homeland Security and a very meaningful mission, and as you listen to my remarks today, I think you’ll find perhaps some glimpse of what it is that we do.

Second, I’d like to take the opportunity to, before I get into the core of this speech, just look back a little bit and reflect on the last eight years and the presidency that is about to come to an end in January 20th. I’ve been privileged to serve this president for six out of the past eight years, first for two years as head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice where we dealt with 9/11 on September 11th and during the months afterwards, and then during my four years as Secretary of Homeland Security. The only period in the last eight years I didn’t serve in the Administration was my two years as a federal judge.

I have to say that looking back on these eight years, as Director Davis said, it is quite remarkable that we haven’t been attacked. Now, I always touch wood, this is not really wood, it’s laminate but maybe that’s wood, because we’re not totally at the end yet, but I think we’ve gone far enough to say that, looking back on the record, it speaks volumes.

Now, when I say we haven’t been attacked, I should amend that. We haven’t been successfully attacked. We have been attacked. There have been efforts made to attack this country, whether it was the Shoe Bomber in December of 2001 or the August 2006 airline plot directed at airline flights from Britain to the United States or some of the other plots that you read about in the newspaper that are currently the subject of various trials, but the fact is none of these have been successful, and I don’t think that’s an accident. I think it is a direct result of policies that this president put into force and that this Administration implemented, whether it was reorganizing the intelligence community to taking action against the enemy overseas in the caves in Afghanistan and the laboratories in Afghanistan where they were planning their work, whether it was enacting the Patriot Act or putting into effect a system for detecting conversations among terrorists.

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