Chertoff speech addresses FEMA’s role in DHS

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


A month later, in August 2006, when the U.K. aviation plot directed at flights from Britain to the U.S. was revealed, we were able to coordinate TSA, again the State Department, Defense, and Customs and Border Protection, in a concerted response so that we could, within less than eight hours, completely transform the way we dealt with flights and airline security to prevent any element of that airline plot from coming to fruition.

And to use a different example, in June 2007, we had two successive emergencies that were resolved through incident management. One was a scare that turned out to be unfounded that we might have foot and mouth disease that had entered the country through swine. For those of you who don’t know, that is a potentially calamitous livestock disease. DHS and its components worked with the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center to immediately assess whether this was a terrorist incident, to develop a common situational picture of what was going on, and to swiftly determine that the matter was not a threat. Had it been a threat, we would have then put into effect certain protocols at the border and certain medical protocols which would have mitigated the damage.

A day after we resolved that problem, we had the London and Glasgow terrorist attacks, culminating in the effort to blow up the airport in Glasgow, and we were again able to coordinate a response with Customs and Border Protection the Transportation Security Administration, and other elements of national power. That is the essence of incident management the ability to wield a lot of different organizations and bring them together to work in a coordinated way, and I think that is the harvesting of the seeds that were planted when this department was first founded.

So, in conclusion, always welcome words to those who are listening to a speaker, as we look ahead to the challenges of the future, I believe that we have built a firm foundation in incident management and in integration with the department, a foundation that was, I believe, part of the original conception by those who framed this department.

Now, it’s not a fully-built and polished structure. We’ve laid out the basic architecture and I believe and I’m confident my successors will continue to strengthen and elaborate on this structure in a way that will ultimately result in making this country safer. No disaster is ever going to be painless and easy. That’s why they call it a disaster and not a picnic. But we can make it less difficult, less costly, and, most important, less deadly if we are able to respond quickly, effectively, and in a coordinated way, in the manner that I think we’ve become able to do over the last several years, and so I wish my successors well as they continue to carry out the most important mission you can have as a public servant, which is protecting the citizens of this country against any kind of harm, whether it be manmade or natural.