What Have We Learned from 9/11?

“When airport security was federalized, security improved immediately. When TSOs took over airport security, my personal security improved immediately. Safety and security doesn’t just happen; it happens because we crew members as well as TSOs demand it.”  ~ Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson

Fourteen years ago, terrorist attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, including 69 federal employees. At least 1,100 people who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan have been diagnosed with cancer caused by toxins from Ground Zero, and the number is growing. More than 1,400 rescue workers who responded to the scene after the attacks have since died.

9/11 changed this country forever. To help prevent another attack, the Department of Homeland Security was created, uniting 22 agencies and 170,000 workers in the biggest government reorganization in more than 50 years. Important steps were taken to improve security, including:

  • Airport security was federalized, immediately making air travelers safer.
  • FEMA was folded into Homeland Security to improve our preparedness and response to disasters both natural and manmade.
  • The Coast Guard was transferred to DHS from the Department of Transportation to improve agility and response between the agencies.
  • The Border Patrol expanded its mission beyond combating drug and human trafficking to include preventing terrorists and illegal arms from entering the country.
  • Law enforcement and intelligence agencies changed the way they share information.
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement consolidated the investigative and intelligence functions of several agencies, helping to close gaps that were exposed after 9/11. 

We seemed to be moving in the right direction – but what’s happening today is both perplexing and disheartening to the employees who are trying to keep this country safe.

There have been repeated attempts in Congress to return to the pre-9/11 era where airport security was in the hands of for-profit companies. The Federal Protective Service, which is part of DHS and tasked with protecting 9,000 federal facilities, federal employees, and the American public, has been underfunded with a big chunk of its services outsourced to for-profit companies.

Border Patrol is understaffed with inadequate training. The Defense Department has terminated tens of thousands of positions and is shredding thousands more. The list goes on.

Congress seems to have very short memories when it comes to funding the government. Even with a potential shutdown looming in the near future AFGE members continue to do the best they can in spite of savage budget cuts. The important programs that keep Americans safe require adequate funding. Congress must commit to fulfilling their obligations and pay for the programs and department to keep the country safe.


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