NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell moderated “The Department of Homeland Security: Year Eight,” which was coordinated by the Aspen Institute and Georgetown University.
Following opening remarks from University President John DeGioia, Mitchell spent approximately an hour aiming questions at current Secretary Janet Napolitano, her immediate predecessor Michael Chertoff, and the first secretary of the DHS Tom Ridge.
On the eighth anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, all three secretaries stressed the success of the department’s evolution and effectiveness in protecting the country from terrorism.
The DHS “has been successful up until now,” Ridge succinctly asserted.
The three secretaries spoke on the Mexican conflict, the political vacuum in the Arab world, and American homegrown terrorism as major current threats.
“It’s almost easier to say what you don’t worry about,” Napolitano responded when asked about her greatest fear.
The issue of airline safety prompted lively discussion, with both former secretaries praising the Transportation Security Administration.
In perhaps the morning’s most notable moment, applause followed Tom Ridge’s appeal to Congress to not “think that everybody that comes across the border wants to be an American citizen [...] at some point in time, you’ve got to say to yourself, we’re not sending 12 million people home.”
The secretaries were cautiously optimistic on the Middle East, with Ridge citing Iran’s growing power in the political vacuum, but Chertoff praising “a narrative of democracy in the Middle East.”
Chertoff reminded the audience of the important nature of the DHS’ role in protecting the country.
“There can be disagreement about strategies and tactics. But there should not be disagreement about the motivation of the people, which is dedicated to the U.S. and dedicated to defending the country,” he said.
Image: Georgetown University News