The now-concluded Sept. 11 Commission gave dismal grades today to the federal government’s efforts to shore up national security and prevent another terror attack on the United States.
Meeting for the last time since being appointed by Congress in 2002, commission members gave the government “more Fs than As” among the 41 grades measuring progress on security recommendations they issued last year.
“We shouldn’t need another wake-up call,” said former commission chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor. “We believe that the terrorists will strike again, so does every responsible expert that we have talked to. And if they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuse be?”
Should we be surprised?
The Bush Administration is blaming Congress – spokesman Dan Bartlett was very visible on this morning’s talk shows – in another display of the buck stops anywhere but at the White House.
Bush has had the rare fortune of having Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. A majority of Americans didn’t blame his administration for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and until very recently, that same majority felt that he and his fellow Republicans would be better able to defend the homeland than the Democrats.
And what has that faith gotten them? A president who was against the formation of the 9/11 commission, and who (along with the vice president) wouldn’t testify under oath to that commission. A president who was against creating a Department of Homeland Security. A president who stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days after the attack and implied he would bring Al Qaeda to justice, and then launched a war against Iraq – which the 9/11 Commission concluded had no role in the terrorist attacks. A president who has not captured Osama Bin Laden, nor dismantled or even slowed Al Qaeda, and turned Iraq into the terrorist haven that he and his administration falsely suggested it was when trying to convince the American people of the urgent need to go to war. A president who silently approved the Republican leadership in Congress rejecting Democratic proposals to spend Homeland Security dollars to protect chemical and nuclear plants, and airports, sea ports and train stations.
But the administration is good at pointing fingers.
According to an Oct. 30 Associated Press report, the administration far too often has failed to meet Homeland Security deadlines. And rather than admit this shortcoming, the administration instead has offered excuses.
Is the administration doing “everything we can?” Apparently not. Let’s remember, in most cases, the Republican-led Congress set the deadlines. Anyone who spins this into a partisan battle isn’t paying attention to their dance card.
And the deadlines missed weren’t for minor issues, the AP reports.
— A Homeland Security study on the cost of giving anti-terrorism training to federal law enforcement officers is three years overdue. Its plan to defend ships and ports from attack is six months late. Its rules to protect air cargo from infiltration by terrorists are two months late.
— A Coast Guard report on cargo container security is eight months overdue. A national security plan for marine transportation is well past its April 1 due date.
— The Transportation Security Administration missed a March 17 deadline for a plan to deploy bomb-detection machines at airports.
Why are so many deadlines being missed? Amazingly, the official excuse is that there are too many deadlines.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke told the AP that the department goes to great lengths to work with Congress. But, he said, “there is an extraordinarily high number of reporting requirements.”
So it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that the Bush Administration and the Republican-led Congress got failing grades from the 9/11 Commission. The only thing they’ve mastered is excuses.
Asked about the panel’s final report, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “It’s important to look at some of what they’re talking about.”
Yes, Scott. Look at some of the report – the one A and 12 Bs. Don’t look at the nine Cs, 12 Ds, five Fs and two incompletes. Isn’t that how George W. did it at Yale?
Maybe that’s a cheap shot, but we’re talking about homeland security, one of two defining subject areas for this administration.
When not suggesting that the administration will look at some of the report, McClellan then offered the same empty conservative spin that has been the hallmark of the administration’s politicization of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
He related the commission’s findings to the administration’s campaign in Iraq. “By taking the fight to the enemy abroad, and by doing so, that is keeping them from plotting and planning to attack inside America,” McClellan said.
Because when the administration is caught failing to follow through on its promises, all that it is left with is empty spin.