D’Esposito: We Must Meet Today’s Challenges With the Same Commitment to Protecting Those We Love as Those Heroes Who Responded on 9/11
September 12, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology Chairman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) delivering the following opening statement during a hearing at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, examining our nation’s evolving threat landscape over two decades after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Watch the full hearing here.
As prepared for delivery:
I first want to thank our witnesses for participating in today’s field hearing on “Evolving Threats: Security and Safety in a Post-9/11 World.” I am humbled to be able to conduct this hearing on such sacred ground. As a life-long New Yorker, retired NYPD detective, former Chief of the Island Park Fire Department, and as Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology, I want to thank each of you for your commitment to keeping our nation safe and to helping Americans during their time of need.
It is my firm belief that those serving in law enforcement and in emergency management represent the very best of America. Our nation remains resilient thanks to their bravery, their tenacity, and their ability to bring order into chaos. They choose to overcome fear with courage every day, which they nobly demonstrated twenty-two years ago as they helped our nation respond to and recover from the deadliest attack the United States has ever seen.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 shook our great nation and took the lives of almost 3,000 innocent people—lives that were taken too soon. Our sense of safety and security was shattered, highlighting the presence of a very real and cruel enemy.
And, while the tragic fall of the Twin Towers will never be erased from our memory, we also cannot forget the unparalleled heroism and determination demonstrated by our first responders and law enforcement that day. As former President George W. Bush declared in his address later that evening, “[W]e responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.” Amid such pain and chaos, New York City’s firefighters, police officers, and paramedics ran toward the collapsing buildings with unforgettable courage and compassion.
The world may look different today than it did 22 years ago, but there is no shortage of those who seek to do us harm and to disrupt our way of life. From our nation’s first responders to those of us serving in Congress, we each have a role to play in keeping our communities safe and in protecting our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Following the attacks of 9/11, Congress demonstrated its commitment to national security by reforming intragovernmental coordination and terrorism prevention by creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Grant Programs Directorate provides preparedness funding to States, local governments, and non-profit agencies to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.
DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency leads our nation’s efforts to defend against cyber threat actors that target critical infrastructure, federal, state, and local governments, the private sector, and the American people. The Department’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A) delivers intelligence information to our State, Local, Tribal and Territorial (SLTT) and private sector partners. And DHS’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office was established to help its operational partners at the federal, state, and local levels prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States and promote readiness for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.
Regardless of one’s position, as public servants, we must follow the example of those heroes who sacrificed their lives that day and use the authority and resources we’ve each been given to put the lives of our fellow Americans first. We must be vigilant in confronting new threats as well as innovative as those threats evolve.
The United States’ armed forces, law enforcement, and intelligence community has bravely fought terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and ISIS, but their radical ideologies continue to inspire violence against the West. In fact, the FBI has expressed concern about U.S.-based lone actors radicalized by jihadism and other radical ideologies.
Additionally, other threats include transnational criminal organizations, which have trafficked fentanyl into the United States, causing more than 100,000 annual deaths. Cyber attacks and espionage also threaten our nation’s hospitals, small businesses, and critical infrastructure. Furthermore, antisemitism and hate crimes have skyrocketed in the last two years.
There is no doubt, the evil we face is ever evolving. And, although daunting, we must meet today’s challenges with the same commitment to protecting those we love as those heroes who responded to the attacks on 9/11 and the brave soldiers who fought on the frontlines in Afghanistan. We must be unwavering in our support of federal and local law enforcement as they intercept and disrupt terrorist plots against the United States, and we must support our nation’s network of emergency responders as they safeguard our home from unimaginable threats.
As we look to the future, let us remember those who gave their lives on 9/11 and who have courageously fought to protect our freedoms. Freedom isn’t free, so let us be united in our resolve to protect our businesses, our places of worship, and our way of life—all of which are beacons of light.
Thank you again to our witnesses for your commitment to peace and security. I look forward to hearing from you about your work.