Homeland security was thrust to the forefront of Americans’ minds on Christmas Day, when 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate an explosive device on a plane bound for Detroit. Clearly, U.S. intelligence agencies, which failed to prevent 9/11, still can’t connect all the dots.
During has campaign, opponents targeted Barack Obama as weak and inexperienced in his stance against terrorism, especially when it came to the homefront. Obama responded with a series of plans and promises related to homeland security. Among them:
• Ensure that the National Guard and Reserve fulfill its main duty — protecting the nation at home, and acting as a support structure in cases of national emergencies, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He planned to do that through increased funding, and less “cannibalizing” of units and equipment for missions abroad. In December, a bill was submitted that will allocate $950 million to the National Guard and Reserve. A planned removal of combat troops from Iraq in August should also address the use of domestic units abroad.
• Improve the nation’s first response system. Obama specifically targeted the communication network, and increased support for local emergency plans — both through funding and through federal resources and logistical support. The administration has yet to directly address the communication network, though it’s been brought up repeatedly as an on-going issue since he tookoffice. Still, the 2010 budget calls for a $21 million increase over 2009 in terms of funding for first responders.
• Eradicate terrorism worldwide so the threat doesn’t reach home. Obviously a lofty goal, but Obama’s target was Al Qaeda. Specifically, he said he wanted to ensure that the military was prepared with the best equipment and training. As mentioned earlier, Congress has allocated $950 million for the National Guard and Reserve — but what of the other branches of the military?
• Strengthen American security against biological threats. Obama’s plan included increasing security at U.S. ports and airports. Last month, the president released his National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, which includes research to combat diseases and protect the public against biological weapons. It’s a start.