A question of priorities

Rep. Hal Rogers Contributor
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As the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we are reminded of the sobering losses suffered on that fateful day and our solemn responsibility to defend our nation from enemies, both foreign and domestic.  Sadly, I cannot say that we have done our job well this past year in Washington.

The Christmas Day attack; the New York City subway bomb scheme; the Times Square incident; the Fort Hood shooting; the record-setting Midwest floods; the Gulf Coast oil leak response; and several ambitious terror plots across our country punctuated the past year.  Even more, a surge in Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism throughout the world and mass drug killings in Mexico should have heightened our senses.  And in just the past few weeks, we learned of credible cyber attacks against U.S. Armed Forces and continued to see suspicious and troubling incidents aboard passenger aircraft.

While the efforts of law enforcement, intelligence officers, DHS frontline personnel, and our soldiers confronting these threats have been laudable, Congress’ response has been nothing short of abysmal and the administration’s focus on security, knee-jerk and selective at best.

Look no further than the shameful six-month delay in passing a wartime funding bill for our troops as Democrats searched for votes to include borrowed funds for unrelated special interests.

Likewise, the recently enacted border security supplemental marked a complete reversal from the president’s original proposal to cut the Border Patrol’s funding and reduce border aviation assets.  Enacted so late in the process, its immediate impact will be negligible and, perhaps worst of all, it will do nothing to address interior enforcement of our immigration laws.  Lest we forget, 9/11 was perpetrated by terrorists already in our country, many of whom exploited our legal immigration system.  The Democrats ostensibly acted upon these two security measures only out of political expediency, not out of honest resolve and urgency.  Meanwhile, the White House’s current immigration policy — suing states for enforcing federal law and offering “virtual amnesty” to illegal immigrants — is patently dangerous.

With only weeks to go in this fiscal year, neither chamber of Congress has passed the homeland security or defense appropriations bills for 2011.  In the Democrat-led House of Representatives, this year marked the very first time since the creation of DHS that neither the full Appropriations Committee nor the House has passed the annual homeland security funding bill. An equally sad story can be told for the vital defense appropriations bill.

This dereliction of duty comes in the wake of what has been no less than a red-letter year for threats to our security.  Threats like the Christmas Day bomber or brazen cyber attacks won’t simply go away; they must be addressed decisively, with relentless commitment and fortitude.

If the tragic events of September 11, 2001, taught us anything, it was that we no longer have the luxury of taking national security for granted. Nine years later, we must sustain a unified, solemn resolve to consistently make the defense of our nation our foremost priority.

Congressman Hal Rogers represents Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District and currently serves as the Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.