Tonight, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation authorizing the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security, effectively strengthening our nation’s response to the war on terrorism.  Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after the 295-132 vote:

“Today I am proud to join with my colleagues in the House to pass landmark legislation creating a new Department of Homeland Security.  

“While there is no silver bullet in the fight against terrorism, this new department is a step toward reorganizing our government in a manner that reflects the threats in the post-Cold War world.  I intend to monitor the implementation of this new Department closely.  If done correctly and effectively, our nation will be safer.  A coordinated structure for identifying, deterring and responding to any future attacks will go a long way toward the goal of better security.   

“I’m also pleased with the emphasis that we’ve placed on technology as a tool for securing our nation and fighting the war on terrorism.  This bill leverages our national assets - including the National Labs, universities, the private sector and small businesses - to develop and bring to bear many of the technology answers that we need.  I’m committed to continuing my efforts to make sure the government develops and procures the best and most innovative technologies in the world. 

“Working with Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), I was able to add an amendment to H.R. 5005 that will significantly strengthen federal cyber-preparedness by requiring all agencies to implement specific, baseline security standards established by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“Recent public opinion surveys indicate that over 70 percent of Americans are concerned about Internet and computer security and 74 percent are concerned about terrorists using the Internet to launch a cyber-attack against our country’s infrastructure.   One survey shows that half of all IT professionals believe that a major attack will be launched against the Federal Government in the next 12 months.  In November of last year, a GAO-based report card on Federal agency computer security that concluded that nearly every agency deserves a failing grade for its computer security preparedness.

“This language is essential to ensuring that there are incentives for America’s technology industries to continue producing the most secure solutions possible, and that Federal Government information security is second to none.

“Despite these successes, however, I was disappointed with the failure of amendments designed to ensure that employees in the new Homeland Security Department have reasonable protections and maintain the right to collectively bargain.  I know that these rights can make a real difference in the lives of many American families and I hope these issues can be worked out in conference committee.”