Sep 21, 2021
DHS Sec. Mayorkas Opening Statement Transcript: National Security Threats
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified on the current state of national security threats at a post-911 hearing on September 21, 2021. Read the transcript of his opening statement speech here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… before this committee today, and you are recognized for your opening statement.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (00:04)
Thank you very much, Chairman Peters, ranking members of the committee. Good morning, and thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the threat landscape facing our homeland 20 years after 9/11, alongside my colleagues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Counterterrorism Center.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (00:24)
During the past few weeks, I’ve attended numerous events to remember that tragic assault on our democracy. Each commemoration was a powerful reminder of why we serve, in memory of those whom we lost and in pursuit of our noble mission to protect the homeland. Today, we face a diverse and evolving threat landscape that includes domestic and international terrorism, malicious cyber activities, an ongoing global pandemic, transnational crime, climate change, and more. Through the extraordinary challenge and dedication of the more than 250,000 individuals who comprise our department, we are meeting the challenge to protect our homeland and keep our community safe.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (01:06)
Every day, our department’s personnel make tremendous sacrifices to achieve this mission. I would like to take a moment to describe the major threats facing our country today, and the work we are doing to combat them. First, we have built a multi-layered security and screening and vetting architecture to combat the evolving terrorist threat. We remain ever-vigilant to protecting the homeland from foreign terrorists seeking to do us harm, the very reason of the department’s creation, while combating the most significant and persistent terrorism related threat facing our country today, which stems from both homegrown and domestic violent extremists who are inspired by a broad range of ideological motivations. To meet this challenge, DHS has established a dedicated domestic terrorism branch within our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, launched the Center for Prevention Programs, and partnerships to provide communities with evidence-based tools and resources to address early risk factors and redoubled our efforts to share timely and actionable information and intelligence with our partners across every level of government.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (02:17)
This year, for the first time, we designated combating violent domestic extremism as a national priority area in FEMA grant programs, resulting in at least $77 million being spent on capabilities to detect and protect against these threats in communities nationwide. At the same time, we are working with our partners in the intelligence community to assess the security and counterterrorism threats that could develop over the coming months and years, including those potentially related to the fall of the government of Afghanistan and the risks associated with the more permissive environments being exploited to plot attacks against the United States.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (02:57)
Second, we continue to combat counterintelligence and malign threats from nation state adversaries. These adversaries include the People’s Republic of China, or the PRC, which continues to engage in intellectual property theft, the exploitation of vulnerable supply chains, and use of economic coercion to threaten our economic security. During the pandemic, for example, DHS has targeted PRC-based manufacturers to prevent the PRC from exploiting COVID-19, to profit from the production of fraudulent PPE and medical supplies that especially endanger our country’s frontline workers. DHS has also prevented goods produced by forced labor from entering our markets and continues to work closely with the Department of State to prevent the PRC’s exploitation of our academic system.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (03:49)
Third, as cyber threats have grown, so have our efforts to increase our nation’s cybersecurity resilience and protect our critical infrastructure. Ransomware incidents are on the rise. Last year, victims paid an estimated $350 million in ransoms, a 311% increase over the prior year, with the average payment exceeding $300,000. In July, in partnership with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies, DHS launched StopRansomware.gov to help private and public organizations of all sizes combat ransomware and adopt cyber security best practices. Our experts at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, stood up the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative to bring together partners from every level of government and the private sector to reduce cyber risks. To better protect our critical infrastructure, TSA recently issued two new security directives after soliciting industry feedback to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of our nation’s pipelines.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (04:57)
CISA and our Office of Intelligence and Analysis are also working with all 50 states, local jurisdictions, and election technology secure. To further lead the way, we are building a top-tier cybersecurity workforce by investing in the development of diverse talent pipelines and building the expertise to keep addressing changing threats. We are also increasing and optimizing grant programs to improve cybersecurity capabilities across every level of government and in local communities.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (05:30)
Fourth, we continue making risk-based investments to make our border secure, including from threats posed by transnational criminal organizations. We are collaborating with our international partners to disrupt these groups, combat their illicit activities like drug trafficking and human smuggling, and hold accountable those with ties to their logistical operations, while streamlining multinational cooperation on investigations and prosecutions. Fifth, DHS continues to support nationwide efforts to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (06:06)
FEMA has helped stand up more than 800 community vaccination centers, including almost 200 mobile sites to more equitably increase access to COVID-19 vaccines across vulnerable and rural populations. The Transportation Security Administration acted to protect the health of the traveling public and transportation personnel by implementing a federal mask mandate at airports, on commercial aircraft, and in various modes of service transportation, meanwhile the US Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have partnered with other federal agencies to protect Americans from COVID-19 related fraud and criminal activity, including by preventing more than $3 billion worth of much-needed COVID-19 relief from fraudulently ending up in the pockets of criminals. Finally, we are countering the current and growing existential threat posed by climate change.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (07:04)
Hurricane Ida was just the latest manifestation of a devastating reality, natural disasters rising in intensity and destructive reach. However, this threat is not new nor is it unique to any region. To help communities recover and remain resilient, President Biden doubled the size of the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program, pouring $1 billion into wildfire resilience efforts, flood control initiatives, and much more. DHS also authorized nearly $3.5 billion in hazard mitigation grant program funding, to help states, tribes, and territories adapt and prepare for the impacts of the climate crisis. Further, FEMA revised its policies to overcome historic inequities in its aid programs and ensure a fairer and more equitable distribution of assistance to minority, low-income, and other disenfranchised communities.
Alejandro Mayorkas: (08:03)
Two decades after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security remains focused on protecting our country from evolving threats, both seen and unseen, and safeguarding our communities. We can execute this critical mission because of our incredible workforce and because of our key partners, the members of this committee, our counterparts abroad, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and local communities. We will remain vigilant, resilient, and agile. We will do so to continue countering the threats of today and of the next 20 years. Thank you for your leadership and your continued support, and I look-