A decade later, the members have reconvened as private citizens to reflect upon the changes of the past 10 years and the emerging threats the U.S. faces as a country. In recent months, they have spoken with some of the country’s most senior national security leaders — current and recently retired. What the former commissioners, now working as the Bi-Partisan Policy Center, found: “counterterrorism fatigue and a waning sense of urgency among the public threaten U.S. security.”
According to their report, “many Americans think that the terrorist threat is diminishing — that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong.”
The commission, led by co-chairs Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana, pointed out that foreign fighters returning from Syria’s civil war to the U.S., and lax congressional efforts to address cyber readiness, need to be addressed.
They laid out several recommendations encompassing policy changes and budgetary suggestions to remedy their concerns. Their recommendations include:
To sustain public support for policies and resource levels, national security leaders must communicate to the public — in specific terms — what the threat is, how it is evolving, what measures are being taken to address it, why those measures are necessary, and what specific protections are in place to protect civil liberties. In this era of heightened skepticism, platitudes will not persuade the public. Leaders should describe the threat and the capabilities they need with as much granularity as they can safely offer.
Congress and the president should revise the September 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The administration should clearly explain (1) whether it needs new legal authority to confront threats like ISIS and (2) how far, in its view, any new authority should extend.
Reiterating what they said in The 9/11 Commission Report: Congress should oversee and legislate for Department of Homeland Security through one primary authorizing committee. DHS should receive the same streamlined oversight as the Department of Defense. At the very minimum, the next Congress should sharply reduce the number of committees and subcommittees with some jurisdiction over the department.
These changes should take effect when the next Congress convenes, and the House and Senate adopt new rules in January. Planning should begin now to make this possible.
Government officials should explain to the public — in clear, specific terms — the severity of the cyber threat and what the stakes are for the country. Public and private-sector leaders should also explain what private citizens and businesses can do to protect their systems and data.
“The absence of another major attack on the homeland is a success in itself but does not mean that the terrorist threat has diminished,” the commissioners concluded.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States released the report at midnight Tuesday. Read it below.