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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.

As a governor, I bring other types of experience to this role. I was the governor during the Lewis Prison hostage crisis in Arizona, a 15-day standoff, with several of our prison officers kept hostage by armed inmates. And we were able to resolve that after 15 days, without loss of life.

The -- the pipeline -- the Kinder Morgan pipeline that brings, basically, all of the gasoline into the Phoenix area ruptured. And it was there that I recognized that -- not only the criticality of infrastructure, but how fragile it is, and how necessary it is to have a working relationship with the private sector, which controls much of that physical infrastructure. It only takes one hot Sunday afternoon in August, in Phoenix, where people cannot get gasoline, for a governor to recognize how critical that infrastructure is.

I have dealt with drought and response to drought, and also with the -- the major natural catastrophe that affects Arizona, which are forest fires that are ever-increasing and ever-larger.

As governor, we created a 211 system in our state to provide alternative sources for information to the 911 system that is updated on a current basis and real-time basis, during any type of emergency. We mobilized early and effectively to accept evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. And we were among the first states to create a statewide anti-terrorism fusion center that is now being used as a model for other states. On the issue of cyber-security, when I was the attorney general, I created the first cyber-crime unit within the attorney general's office. We brought one of the first prosecutions -- or some of the first prosecutions in the country in that area. And, as governor, but executive order, I created a statewide information-security-and- privacy office to deal with all of the issues affecting the -- the collection of data in databases -- not just from a security side, but from a privacy side as well.

Because I am a governor, a chief executive, I have a lot of experience with budgets and management and the like. And though the Department of Homeland Security is larger than the administration of the state of Arizona, it shares with it some of those same features.

There are many issues with the Department of Homeland Security, and I look forward to working with the committee on them.

We must work to make sure the -- the department continues to merge as a whole, and has a unified vision for homeland security. We must work to streamline communications. We must work to recruit, train and retain the best and the brightest amongst our employees. We must continue to work on federal relationships with other agencies.

And I will share with this committee that, during the course of the transition, President-elect Obama has held a number of exercises with the national-security team. And, then, indeed, this week, on Tuesday, there was one with the -- President-elect Obama's security team, and President Bush's current security team. And all of those exercises have illustrated the central role now that the Department of Homeland Security plays.

And, as we strengthen these federal links, we must recognize the important partnerships we have with state and local law enforcement and first-responders. The federal government cannot do the homeland- security function alone. Amongst all the departments, it is as essential as anything to make sure that we have linked in, planned with, exercised with, our state and local partners. And that is something that I hope to spend a great deal of effort on.

We hope to move our -- our security team in place at the department as quickly as possible. I look forward, again, to working with this committee. And I am privileged to appear before you today to discuss the issues of concern with you.

I want to thank you for hearing me today. And I, again, am very humbled and privileged to receive this nomination.

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