Thomas H. Kean, chair, right, of the Sept. 11 Public Discourse Project, Lee H. Hamilton, vice chairman, sewcond from right and members Fred F. Fielding and Slade Gorton, left, prepare for a news conference to issue a final assessment of progress on the co
Photo credit: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
The former chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 commission warned Sunday that the nation is ill-prepared for another terrorist attack.
The bipartisan panel plans to issue a report Monday assessing the federal government's response to the recommendations it made last year.
The group was created by Congress in 2002 to investigate aspects of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It released its final report with a slew of recommendations in a nearly 570-page book in July 2004.
Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that enacting the changes is "not a priority for the government right now.
"A lot of the things we need to do really to prevent another 9/11 just simply aren't being done by the president or by the Congress.
"What we're concerned about now is that these recommendations -- four years, more than four years after 9/11, are still not being done. People are not paying attention to them."
Lee Hamilton, the committee's Democratic vice-chairman, predicted another attack will occur -- "It's not a question of if" -- and said the nation is not "as well-prepared as we should be."
Added Kean, "God help us if we have another attack and we haven't done some of these things."
The Bush administration did carry out one of the panel's central recommendations for overhauling the nation's intelligence system: creating the post of director of national intelligence, charged with beefing up intelligence efforts and information-sharing among disparate agencies.
In his first one-on-one interview in that post, John Negroponte told CNN last week, "America is safer than it was at 9/11" because of better integrated intelligence efforts.
But Kean and Hamilton said many of the commission's most important recommendations for strengthening U.S. security have been given short shrift.
Among their top concerns: first responders still cannot communicate with each other in an emergency because no part of the radio spectrum has been allocated for their use, the two men said.
"It really approaches scandal to think that, four years after 9/11, the police and the fire cannot talk to one another at the scene of the disaster," said Hamilton.
"They could not do it on 9/11, and as a result of that, lives were lost. They could not do it at Katrina. They still cannot do it."
Congress is considering a bill to establish such a radio frequency, but even if it passes, "the best hope we have is a bill that fixes it by 2009," said Kean, former governor of New Jersey.
The two men, and the other members of the former commission, also want funding for first responders to be distributed based on risk -- with more likely targets receiving a bigger chunk of the funding -- rather than on a per capita or geographical basis.
"We've had some of this money spent to air condition garbage trucks. We've had some of the money spent for armor for dogs. This money is being distributed as if it's general revenue sharing," said Kean.
Unified command system
They also called for a unified command system, under which first responders in any situation would know who is in charge.
"Nobody, by the way, knew who was in charge on 9/11 when people responded to the World Trade Center -- police, fire, Port Authority. Nobody knew who was in charge. Same thing happened in Katrina."
Kean expressed concern over U.S. efforts to secure nuclear sites. On that front, he said, there has been "some progress," but "not enough."
"We're talking about doing it in 14 years; nobody thinks we have 14 years," he said.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "has said he wants to use nuclear weapons to attack the United States. So that's got to be a much higher priority. We should be able to do that in two or three years, if it's on top of the priority list."
The United States also needs to repair its image in the world, Kean said.
"We've got to talk about the kind of image we have and the things we do to create that image," said Kean. "If we don't, there's going to be more terrorists created than the ones we're now killing."
It is up to President Bush and Congress to enact the necessary reforms, both men said.
White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said the Bush administration accepted a large majority of the panel's recommendations, but he acknowledged that the job of implementation is incomplete.
"Obviously, as we've said all along, we are safer, but not yet safe. There is more to do," Hadley told "Fox News Sunday."
The 9/11 panel -- formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- disbanded as a government entity the month after its report was issued.
But the 10 members formed the Public Discourse Project, with the aim of fulfilling their original mandate of protecting against future terrorist attacks.