9/11 reforms remain undone

Apr 1, 2011 Issues: First Responder Communications

Newsday
April 1, 2011

Almost a decade after 9/11, the nation still has no system enabling first-responders to communicate seamlessly with one another in a crisis.

That's an astonishing gap in homeland security that Congress must eliminate. Many died for want of timely information in the chaos after the World Trade Center attack.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) would set aside a broadband frequency for police, firefighters and public safety officers that will otherwise be auctioned to a commercial carrier. Giving first-responders the ability to share videos, maps and data over mobile devices is a better use.

Testifying in Congress this week, the chairmen of the 9/11 Commission said that's just one of the panel's recommendations that remain unfulfilled. Another is for cities and counties to agree to put one person in charge at the site of a terrorist attack. Nassau, Suffolk and New York City have attended to that need for unity of command. Other regions should follow their lead.

Finally oversight of the Department of Homeland Security should be consolidated in one or two congressional committees, such as the one headed by King. Members of Congress should shelve their reluctance to relinquish turf and end the current fragmentation among at least 90 committees and subcommittees. It wastes time and effort.

A lot has been accomplished in the last decade to sharpen the nation's response to terrorism. But the job isn't done.