Katko Opening Statement in Hearing on Worldwide Threats to the Homeland
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, delivered the following opening statement in a full committee hearing entitled, “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: 20 Years After 9/11.”
Ranking Member Katko’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased that the Committee is holding this important hearing today, as the United States finds itself facing increasingly dire threats on a number of fronts impacting our homeland security.
From the Biden Administration’s chaotic and deadly withdrawal process in Afghanistan; to the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis along our Southwest border; to the unprecedented cyber threats facing our American way of life; the American people are deeply troubled by what they are seeing.
These threats, are, of course, all happening in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in which clarity from the Administration related to vaccine boosters has been absent, similar to the Department of Homeland Security’s mitigation of the pandemic at the Southern Border, as was recently confirmed by the DHS Inspector General’s Office.
What is most troubling to me is the overwhelming lack of accountability this Administration is willing to accept. Nearly 10 months after President Biden’s inauguration the prevailing narrative coming from the Administration’s political class continues to be one which blames the last Administration for the current Administration’s shortcomings. This tired, inaccurate talking point has been repeated consistently alongside scenes of Americans and Afghan allies being left under Taliban rule, and while known terrorist operatives were inaugurated into the Taliban’s cabinet on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
But that is not the only crisis where the Biden Administration’s blame game shows up. We also hear it when officials blame the last Administration for the deadly and untenable crisis along our Southern border. Last month, we saw the 6th straight month of more than 170,000 encounters along the southwest border—a trend never before recorded. These numbers are part of the overall 1.5 million illegal border encounters that have occurred just this fiscal year. While the recently departed border chief is on record stating that known or suspected terrorists are crossing the border “at a level we have never seen before,” this Administration continues to avoid the American people’s demands for transparency.
This issue hits home for me. This year, my home district in Central New York has seen marked increases in opioid-related deaths—up 15% in Syracuse alone. This trend is repeated in communities across the country, proving that, in 2021, every state truly is a border state. CBP has seized more than twice the amount of lethal fentanyl this year compared to last year, and more than three times more than in 2019. We all know that for everything we interdict, more is flowing undetected into American communities as the drug cartels exploit this Administration’s failings.
On the issue of cybersecurity, the American people are facing unprecedented threats to their livelihood, privacy, and overall way of life. This year alone we have seen a number of high-profile attacks aimed at America’s critical infrastructure, leading to important conversations in Congress around the merits of incident reporting and identifying systemically important critical infrastructure—two issues I would like to hear the panel’s thoughts on today.
Last, but most certainly not least, is the rapidly increasing challenges facing the homeland from adversarial nation states overseas—namely China. As the Chinese Communist Party aims to undermine the United States at every turn, I see aggressive moves on Beijing’s part to increase its investments in the Western Hemisphere. If we are unable to counter China’s malign influence in our own backyard, I worry to think how successful we will be elsewhere. Threats posed by China underpin supply chain security challenges that are leading this committee into new economic security oversight efforts.
I recently traveled to New York City with a number of my colleagues to observe the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. As we spoke with individuals at NYPD and FDNY two things became clear: First, that our first responders and law enforcement are true heroes on the frontlines of our homeland security—risking their lives every day to protect the American people. And secondly, that these same first responders are troubled by what they see. I heard many accounts concerning how troubled our frontline law enforcement is about the homeland security implications of al Qaeda and ISIS having a safe haven in Afghanistan, along with consequences in their communities stemming from the porous southern border. These threats, combined with low morale and retention caused by the left’s shameful defund-the-police movement, is putting American communities at greater risk at a time when we can least afford it.
Today, I hope to hear solutions rather than talking points from our panelists, who each play a truly critical role in securing the U.S. homeland. I am grateful to each one of them for their service in these trying times, and I look forward to working with them in our efforts on behalf of the American people.
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.