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Transcript: Napolitano's Opening Statement at Senate Hearing

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Thursday, January 15, 2009; 12:39 PM

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY APPOINTEE JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning. Good morning, Ranking Member Collins, members of the committee.

It is a privilege and honor to be seated before you today in nomination to serve as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and it is humbling, because as you know better than anyone, the urgent mission of this important agency is critical to the lives and security of every citizen of the United States.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Collins, I want to particularly note and commend your foresight and leadership with respect to this agency. After the tragedy of 9/11, you understood the need for a more organized, systematic approach to domestic terrorism, to homeland security, and you held the vision to forge a new department.

I also would like to commend the first two secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Ridge and, most particularly, Secretary Chertoff, for their work in building this department, and particularly Secretary Chertoff for his work on the transition, which has been extensive and very thoughtful, not just by him, but by a number of members of the department.

We have come a long way. The department has come a long way, but there is a ways to go, as you have noted, and I look forward to helping the department become even better as time goes on.

To secure the homeland means to find and kill the roots of terrorism, to stop those who intend to hurt us, to wisely enforce the rule of law at our borders, to protect our nation's infrastructure, particularly things like our cyber infrastructure, as you mentioned, and to be prepared for and to respond to homeland disasters with speed, skill, compassion, effectiveness, and common sense.

This is a mission of paramount importance to the Obama administration, to this committee and to me. And as we seek to meet that responsibility, I seek to bring to this committee several things.

One is a close working relationship with this committee, and with the Congress. I recognize this committee's unusual expertise with respect to the subject matter here, and I will cooperate fully with its oversight and investigative functions as we work together to keep building the department.

I also look forward to the committee's assistance on making changes, as changes need to made. After, all we do share that common goal -- a strong and vigorous Department of Homeland Security.

I will also bring to this role, should I be confirmed, a great deal of experience. As Senator McCain and Senator Kyl noted, as a border governor on the southwestern border, I have dealt with the immigration issue from every aspect since I entered public life in 1993. I know that border very well, and the challenges presented there. I look forward to getting to know the northern border as well as I know the southwest border, because it is different. And we've already spoken, some of us, about the need to -- to get as familiar with the north as I am with the south.


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