Wyden to Hold Homeland Security Nominee Until NET Guard is Implemented
Washington, D.C. - After five years of the Department of Homeland Security's failure to implement the National Emergency Technology - NET Guard - program, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that he will place a hold on the Administration's nomination of Dennis Schrader to serve as Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness until NET Guard is up and running. Congress authorized the establishment of NET Guard in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to create teams of local volunteers with science and technology expertise to assist communities in responding to attacks on communications networks or in recovering from natural disasters.
Wyden announced his hold by placing the following statement in the Congressional Record:
Mr. President, more than 30 months ago, prior to his confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Michael Chertoff told me in my office that if confirmed he would move expeditiously to implement the National Emergency Technology Guard - NET Guard - program. Unfortunately, Secretary Chertoff has failed to honor this pledge.
The idea of NET Guard was born in the aftermath of 9-11, when a number of communications and technology companies told me they wanted to help New York City when it was attacked - and there was no system for using their volunteers. Then-Senator George Allen and I moved on a bipartisan basis to support a program, called NET Guard, that would ensure that volunteers with technology expertise could be fully utilized in future crises. These teams of local volunteers with science and technology expertise would be vital in assisting our communities in responding to attacks on communications networks, or recovering from natural disasters. Congress authorized the establishment of NET Guard 5 years ago, in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
However, DHS has utterly failed to make any visible progress in implementing this critical program. DHS's failure to act in this critical area is inexcusable.
Had the Department followed through and created NET Guard, I believe it could have played a significant role in alleviating the chaos, confusion and suffering after Hurricane Katrina. Had NET Guard been properly implemented, there would have been teams of volunteers with expertise ready to mobilize instantly to tackle technical challenges in the wake of the storm. Indeed, on an ad hoc basis, companies and individuals with technology expertise did come forward to assist the suffering. I can only imagine how effective these efforts might have been had NET Guard been in place.
Since my meeting with Secretary Chertoff in 2005, my staff and I have been given one excuse after another for delaying implementation of NET Guard. I have been promised briefings that never happen and reports that never materialize. At the outset, I was willing to accept some delay, but that time has passed.
We know that it is only a matter of time before there is another crisis that will put American communities and their critical communication networks at risk. Further delay is unacceptable.
Out of options, I reluctantly feel that I must put a hold on the nomination of Dennis Schrader who has been nominated by President Bush to serve as Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness, until the NET Guard program is up and running nationwide.
It gives me no pleasure to place this hold and I do so grudgingly.
I recognize the importance of the position of Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness, but the position didn't even exist for the first four years after the Department of Homeland Security was created; it was just created in March. Since then, Mr. Corey Grouber has served as Acting Deputy Administrator, so delaying Mr. Schrader's confirmation while the long-overdue Net Guard program is put in place will not leave the office leaderless. Mr. Corey Grouber has extensive experience at FEMA, so he can manage for a little longer while the NET Guard program is established. Unfortunately, I see no evidence that the Secretary intends to uphold his pledge to me, and until he does, I will keep my hold on Mr. Schrader's nomination.
I hope DHS will quickly begin to take action so I can remove this hold and Mr. Schrader's nomination can move through the Senate.