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New American Strategies for Security and Peace
Conference Transcripts:

Governor Mark Warner (D-VA)

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LOG: RS=Rodney Slater; MW=Mark Warner

RS: I’m very, very pleased to be with you this morning. First of all I’d like to give John and Robert Kuttner and also Richard Leone just words of encouragement in this endeavor. Thanks for bringing us all together and for their leadership as we have gathered in this important forum to talk about new American strategies for security and peace.

As I was sitting there I thought that it’s quite interesting that we will have a son of Virginia to come before us in but a second. The first lady, Senator Clinton in giving her speech made reference to at least two distinguished Virginians in talking about the foundations on which we stand, the strength of our nation.

Roughly two hundred years ago a former governor of Virginia decided to enter into an international agreement that literally doubled the size of America. From the Mississippi to the west we moved. In the interim the stony roads of James Weldon Johnson and the two roads diverged in a yellow wood of Frost and that historic flight of two brothers a hundred years ago — those activities through the mode of transportation they’ve brought us together.

You couple that with the principles and ideals that give us inspiration and we are clearly on our way to becoming that more perfect union — the light up on a hill. As a former Secretary of Transportation and thinking about transportation in that way, the tie that binds, the means by which we pursue happiness, I can tell you that on 9-11 it was like taking a blow to the gut. When you reflect on how that movement of the imagination that would allow us to touch the two coasts and literally touch the hand and kiss the face of God, transportation would be used to not serve as a bridge but to actually seek to bring us to our knees.

Well, I’m pleased that we were able to gather our resources, our internal resources, and to steady ourselves and to remain a light upon a hill. But the light and its glow both are being challenged in this day and in this time with all of the storm clouds around us. We have come to seek a balance, to deal with being stronger as we must be on the offensive.

But to also deal diplomatically with our foes as well; to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation and chemical and biological weapons; to balance our military forces and to encourage our—and strengthen our diplomatic arsenal. Seeking a balance. Well, what greater voice than clearly the voice that we’ve just heard of the Senator from New York about the delicate nature of that balance. But what greater voice than another Virginian to come before us in this moment, to talk about how he was able to balance the budget of his state and deal with a $6 billion deficit but continue to invest in the people of Virginia — their education and healthcare and the environment.

How he was able to harness the power and the force of technology and use it for good. And how he as a state leader was able to stand as our nation stood when the Pentagon in his state and when airports like Dulles and Reagan National were brought to a halt. Ladies and gentlemen, we are fortunate to hear a voice this morning, a voice of reason and reflection and a voice that is clear — as clear as a bell when it comes to speaking to not only the role that has to be addressed by those who work here in Washington, D.C. but those who work on the front lines as well, when it comes to this important issue of safety and security, national and homeland security and especially how that issue is to be addressed beyond the beltway.

Please join me in bringing forth a true visionary and committed servant in this regard. Governor Warner. (Applause)

JW: Thank you Secretary Slater. Thank you, Rodney, for that introduction. If you were, at 2:30 last night, in Memphis, I’d love to have heard what kind of introduction you would have given me if you’d gotten here at midnight. That was very kind. We miss your leadership in transportation and I know you continue to go good work now in the private sector and look forward to continuing working with you.

I want to echo what my friend Rod Slater has said and Senator Clinton has said and acknowledging John Podesta and the Center as well as The Century Foundation and The American Prospect Magazine for bringing together this forum to talk about new American strategies. Although what I want to talk to you about this morning is perhaps not simply new American strategies, but in some cases in terms of homeland security and particularly homeland security beyond the beltway -- cases where they may not even have been a strategy in the first place.

I want to give you a little bit of experience of the last couple years from a governor in a state that is somewhat unique as one of the states that were attacked on 9-11. Some of our first phases in terms of our war against terror here in the homeland, and some of the issues mostly issues to NOVA that I’m not sure we need a new strategy, we just may need a strategy to start with.

Now I became governor about four months after September 11th. Although like everyone in this room had their own September 11th stories I was in the midst of the campaign for governor. The polls were tight. We had the big debate coming up. I happened to be in Alexandria. Somebody called. Told me to turn on the television. Suddenly the debate didn’t seem very important. Went over to our campaign headquarters. Saw the smoke billowing out of the Pentagon. We were a mile away.

All of the issues that literally an hour or two earlier were on the front burner suddenly receded. All I could think about was how I was going to get my kids home, whether my wife was going to come back from campaigning on the road. At that point like virtually every other American I realized that everything had changed in terms of where we were going to head as a country into the future.

In the months and years that have followed this country has fought one war in Afghanistan, another in Iraq and we continue to an ongoing battle against international terror. Now what is sometimes lost, I think -- particularly here inside the beltway -- and as somebody who lived for the last twenty years inside the beltway and now live outside the beltway in Richmond, I think sometimes inside the beltway we forget that the effort to fight terrorism really isn’t fought here in Washington. It truly is fought outside the beltway.

The front lines of the domestic war against terrorism are being fought at the state level and at the local level. As a matter of fact the first responders to the attack on the Pentagon were the Virginia State Police and firefighters from Arlington County. Now this partnership and this need for a new partnership is critical in our efforts to protect our national security. What that has pointed out since 9-11 is that there were many vulnerabilities that had simply never risen to the point of appropriate review prior to that attack.

We also know in the two years since that time that while we focus on the war in Iraq or we focus on the international scene which Senator Clinton so excellently addressed, we continue to fight a very different kind of war here at home. In the last two years in Virginia alone we’ve seen in a very real way the scares that came about from the anthrax threats.

We saw in a few months after that a case of domestic terrorism in the sniper incidents that paralyzed seven million people from Bethesda to Richmond. We’ve seen at the state level repeated increased security warnings and the concerns of that spread through our communities. While not a terrorism threat, we’ve seen in a very real way that the security concerns raised by natural disasters with the recent hurricane.

The fact of the matter is when I was running for governor two years ago I got to candidly tell you that I didn’t imagine that security or particularly even the phrase homeland security would be a critical part of my governorship. But let me assure you for every governor in American today, it is. It has required a whole new approach to issues of coordination, a whole new relationship between state and local first responders and in many cases I think we’re still in the process of trying to figure it out.

In Virginia we’ve done a couple of things. In the first two weeks of office we created a Secure Virginia panel made up of first responders, legislators, senior members of our administration, the private sector as well. They’ve brought forward over eighty recommendations upon which we acted upon to try to insure that we upgrade homeland security in Virginia.

Now the first phase of the domestic war against homeland security focused on where the public has been aware in the last few years. The question of our first responders. The first phase focused on the lack of communication between state, local and federal first responders. The first phase focused on the lack of communications equipment, interoperability standards, lack of appropriate training.

In many ways in that first phase dramatic progress has been made. While the federal dollars, the much promised federal dollars haven’t come nearly as quickly or in the size and amounts that were initially promised, we are seeing resources move through the states down to the local level in making sure that the training, equipment, and standards between our first responders is upgraded.

Now in many ways the public’s awareness of this and they’re seeing this has been a sign of progress. But that first phase while it will continue and there continues to be needs for additional resources, that first phase in many ways is receding. We’re actually starting to move into a second phase in terms of homeland security, a second phase where I don’t think the lines are as clearly drawn or I don’t think the issues have been as clearly thought through or I don’t think the public has been brought into the debate nearly enough.

Let me give you five areas that I believe bear need for much further discussion, much further examination and perhaps not simply a new strategy but an actual strategy in the first place. The first question is that of economic security. As a governor that Secretary Slater indicated has had to grapple with a six billion dollar shortfall in the twenty-one months I’ve been governor, I’ve seen first-hand some of the economic consequences of the aftermath of 9-11.

Yet from any kind of state -- or for that matter particularly national standpoint -- I don’t believe we as a nation have to come to grips with how we protect our economic security in a post 9-11 world. How has productivity been affected? How have consumer buying patterns been affected? Are we going to be able to maintain our nation’s competitiveness in a global economy, in a networked economy that requires the rapid movement of information, goods?

When quick delivery is a key to competitive success what happens when we build in our country required and necessary perhaps bit additional security concerns at our borders and in our networks that slows down the movements of those goods, that slows down the movement of that information. What kind of effect will that have upon American company’s competitiveness not just this year but for years to come? So the whole question of economic security on the downside.

On the upside have we thought through, and Virginia is perhaps better positioned than most states to take advantage of this, as we suddenly see billions if not tens of billions of dollars flow into Homeland Security? Are we as an economy and as a country positioned to leverage those resources in a way that those dollars are not simply spent but invested?

For example do we have a plan to insure that just as there were many commercial applications that came out of the space industry, that came out of traditional defense investments, are we going to make sure that we have an economic plan for commercialization of all the dollars spent on homeland security and related security activities? So questions of economic security vis a vis homeland security I believe we need a more complete strategy.

Second question. A question of requirements for new levels of public/private collaboration. Now one of the things we’ve seen whether it be the hurricane in recent weeks here in this area, whether it’s in examinations of bio-hazard threats around the nation, the public sector’s knowledge of our critical infrastructure that is 90% controlled by the private sector is quite thin.

It is going to require a new level of cooperation between public sector players and private sector players. In many ways this is going to require a whole reformulation of the relationship between public sector and private sector. The normal governmental relationship particularly to those private sector players that provide our critical infrastructure is that of regulator and an entity being regulated.

Suddenly in the post 9-11 world we’re asking you from the public sector no, share information with us. Share information with us in the public sector that may put you at a competitive disadvantage. Now in Virginia we’ve tried to grapple with this a little bit by passing exemptions to our foil laws so that banks, telecom companies, utility companies can share with us their networks, their information in a way that will not have them be put at a competitive disadvantage. But as we think through this sharing of information it’s going to require a whole new formulation of this public/private cooperation when in the most part our private sector partners view the government as someone that you actually want to try to restrict information to because of the regulatory environment.

So we’re going to need, I think, a re-examination of the whole public/private relationship. A third area, one that has received some attention again perhaps in national strategy sessions, but let me assure you where the rubber hits the road is at the state and local level is that ongoing balance between civil liberties and the needs for enhanced securities.

Virginia unfortunately was the state where many of the terrorists were able to secure through loopholes in our DMV systems driver’s licenses. In Virginia we’ve taken a series of corrective actions. Yet at the same time in our rush for enhanced security there remains incredibly complex issues about balancing civil libertarian concerns and the state’s need to make sure that we protect the integrity of the identity of those who want to drive with a Virginia driver’s license.

We right now have passed recently the presence requirements for our driver’s licenses. But the implementation of that policy in a way that is not discriminatory towards new Virginians is an issue that is being repeated time in and again in states all across the country right now. But again candidly hasn’t been perhaps thought through other than on an ad hoc basis.

This issue will become even greater as we see the move from legal presence to actually bio-informatic being put on driver’s license and the ramifications of that. At issue again not being thought through or thought through here in Washington, but being dealt with in state capitals all across America.

A fourth issue that I think needs greater examination is the requirements that security concerns can’t fit in some narrow little box off to the side but that security concerns and the public’s interest in security pervades everything in terms of their relationship with government. Senator Clinton’s comments about the need for the administration to be more straightforward in terms of its dealings on the international scene also have application on the domestic scene as well because what we are asking from our people is in effect trust us in regards to homeland security.

Trust us in regards to an area that for the most part people haven’t even thought about prior to 9-11 and now think about only reluctantly. Unfortunately we have to recognize that that willingness of the public to trust in governmental institutions to take care of their security and domestic tranquility relates to not only how good a job we do with equipping our firefighters and our police forces but also has an awful lot to do with the government—with the public’s overall trust in government as an institution.
As we all know, that trust is eroding in so many ways. At the state level the question of accountability in terms of how the Department of Transportation delivers and builds its roads or how the health department delivers healthcare services or for that matter how the tax department collects your taxes and the public’s confidence in those institutions also affects the public’s confidence in the ability of government to provide for security.

So we need enhanced accountability in all levels of government in terms of delivery of services if we’re going to garner the public’s trust in terms of our ability to provide for homeland security and continue to fight against terrorism. The final issue and one that has received a great deal of attention is the whole requirement for increased collaboration between all levels of government.

It’s become a bit of a truism that pre 9-11 the ability for state, federal and local authorities to work together was somewhat suspect and in some cases non-existent. Now I think progress has been made in that effort. But this desire and need to make sure that we have enhanced collaboration between state, federal and local governmental entities particularly in the area of homeland security is absolutely critical.

And someone who has just gone through first-hand a hurricane that tested in a very real way that extent of that collaboration while in many ways we have made great progress let me assure you I was looking for FEMA ice trucks for two days, and we couldn’t find them. So there is still room for improvement. So collaboration between all levels of government must be increased and continue to be cooperated if we’re going to make sure that we meet this new strategy for homeland security.

Insuring greater government confidence, balancing civil liberties and our security needs, recognizing that we must engage in a whole new relationship between public and private collaboration particularly as we re-define that regulator/regulatee environment and raising issues about economic security are in my mind all areas that not only require new secure—new strategies but actually strategies in the first place.

I can’t stress enough that the frontline of the battle for homeland security is not Washington but is taking place at the state capitals and local governments. My hope is that the activities of this conference though can spark the dialog and spark the ideas that will give us the tools that we need.

Last night I too was not here Rodney. I was actually in Lexington, Virginia at the Virginia Military Institute, where we were having a homeland security conference. Some of the local press came up to me and said well governor this is your—the first conference of this. Is this gonna become an annual event? My response was my hope and prayer would be that it wouldn’t be an annual event. That this may simply be an issue that will pass off the scene.

But in truth is this is an issue that is here to stay. This is an issue that we in this country will be dealing with, fighting on, having to reevaluate this year, next year and unfortunately for decades to come. The work of this conference and the work of the conferences last night in VMI and across this country are critical to our nation’s security and long-term economic prosperity.

Let me assure you that we from the state level look forward to that partnering relationship, look forward to the continuing dialog and want to make sure that we maintain that front role and frontline cooperative spirit with you. So John, thank you for having me here today, and I look forward to the continued work of this conference. Thank you all very much. (Applause)