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Last week, a panel of top national security leaders testified before the House Homeland Security Committee regarding the current threat landscape facing the security of the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Christine Abizaid fielded questions from our members on the dangerous threats President Biden’s open border policies pose, the growing terrorist power-vacuum in Afghanistan, and the current state of our nation’s cybersecurity.
Notably, the hearing underscored that the threat from foreign terrorist organizations, particularly ISIS, remains reinvigorated following the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Intelligence Community warned that these groups have the capability to launch attacks outside of Afghanistan, posing a significant threat if they choose to target the U.S. homeland. Directors Abizaid and Wray both highlighted the increased difficulty of monitoring terrorist activity without a U.S. presence on the ground. Simply, we don’t know what we don’t know.
We also heard a number of references to the ongoing threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party, especially in cyber space and the Indo-Pacific region. Director Wray told our committee he is “extremely concerned” about China’s influence on U.S. users through the popular social media app TikTok.
Our cybersecurity and economic security remain a top priority for the committee as the Chinese government seeks to position itself as a new global superpower and undermine democratic values and the American way of life. Economic security is homeland security. That is why we remain focused on securing critical supply chains, whose vulnerabilities were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as improving cybersecurity in every sector of industry and government.
Cybersecurity and the growing frequency of ransomware attacks on everyday Americans and our critical infrastructure continues to be a top concern facing the homeland. I am pleased with the work DHS is doing to mature the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and make certain that these evolving threats are addressed.
It is increasingly important that Congress conducts constructive oversight next year to ensure CISA’s continued growth and success through CISA 2025 – my oversight recommendations for CISA in the 118th Congress. Among other tenets, such as optimizing the organization and advancing its technical capabilities, it is critical that CISA grow and invest in its relationships with the private sector, while improving upon successful programs like the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative.
The top area of concern for committee Republicans, evidenced by the great deal of focus during the hearing, remains the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border.
The administration continues to get bogged down in political posturing and the semantics of the crisis, while failing to acknowledge the litany of threats stemming from criminals, drugs and individuals on the terror watchlist crossing our border in record numbers. The approach by Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration to nitpick the tiniest discrepancies to distract from the larger crisis is only hurting the Americans they swore an oath to protect and defend.
The administration faces a crisis of its own making, and the brave men and women of the Border Patrol deserve leadership that has their backs. Instead, they are stretched incredibly thin, suffering under mental and physical strain, leading to a deeply disturbing trend of suicide and mental health crises among the front-line workforce.
We must stop talking past each other on this issue. The American people are tired of seeing their communities flooded with deadly drugs, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which killed more than 107,000 Americans last year.
This administration’s open border policies have emboldened dangerous drug cartels, while putting countless migrants in abusive and deadly surroundings on a dangerous journey. These victims include young children, who themselves face physical and sexual abuse by cartels and smugglers.
While Secretary Mayorkas acknowledged ongoing challenges related to the border, he fails to sufficiently demonstrate an understanding or acceptance of the true severity of the crisis on our nation’s doorstep. This is a primary function of Homeland Security, and the American people are tired of seeing the department fail in its mission to keep the country safe.