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Lieberman reflects on decade as congressional homeland security leader

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Failure to pass cybersecurity legislation was Sen. Joe Lieberman's biggest disappointment of the past decade, he said Nov. 28.

Lieberman (I-Conn.), who will retire at the end of this term, looked back on the decade since the creation of the Homeland Security Department, an effort he led in the Senate, at a talk at the Homeland Security Policy Institute in Washington.

Cybersecurity does stand out in part "because the pain is more recent," he added.

Lieberman expressed confidence that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who will succeed him as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, would tackle cybersecurity legislation early in the next term. He also thanked President Barack Obama for the forthcoming executive order on cybersecurity.

"It'll do more than doing nothing," Lieberman said.

Congress' failure to consolidate oversight of homeland security, an outstanding recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, was also one of Lieberman's top disappointments, and not just because it's burdensome for DHS to have to answer to so many committees and subcommittees.

"Our ability as the Homeland Security Committee to do an authorization bill on an annual or biannual basis, comparable to the authorization bill that's done every year by the Senate Armed Services Committee...is greatly limited by the questions, concerns, opposition of other committees who claim jurisdiction over parts of the Department of Homeland Security," he said.

Nevertheless, Lieberman said that overall, DHS's first decade has been a success. The fact that no attack near the scale of 9/11 has occurred is "a record of success that I don't think anyone would have predicted in the immediate weeks and months after the attacks," he said.

He also pointed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's turnaround since the low point of Hurricane Katrina.

Looking forward, Lieberman said that even though DHS has managed its budget cuts well thus far, he worried that new priorities may be underfunded in the future. Chief among those new priorities is cybersecurity, he said.

For more:
- go to the HSPI event webpage (video available)

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