September 11, 2011

Congressional Leaders: Much Has Been Done Since 9/11 | The Wheeling Intelligencer

WHEELING - On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists struck on American soil - but they didn't shoot down the American spirit and, in fact, strengthened the resolve of the U.S. government and the American people, members of Congress believe.

"On 9/11, terrorists tried to destroy our centers of defense and commerce," said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. "Nearly 3,000 lives were lost in those cowardly, hateful attacks.

"But try as they might, terrorists cannot destroy our most sacred tradition - our uniquely American democracy. Democracy lives on in the voices we include in our national debates, the laws we pass, the values we honor, and the progress we make. Ten years later, our nation remains strong."

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., noted, "The landscape of our country changed on that day - and not just the skyline of New York City.

"Our military forces were completely committed to the war on terror," he said. "In the wake of 9/11, we've been fighting the longest war in the history of our country."

But Manchin has been strong in his resolve to bring the troops back home. "The path that began on that tragic day needs to be re-examined in light of our military's accomplishments since then."

Terrorists attempted "to destroy our country's core principles and damage the American spirit" on Sept. 11, 2001, added U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va.

"That attempt was not successful," he commented.

Improvements to the Nation's Intelligence

"There isn't any doubt that the attacks of 9/11 had a profound impact on our national psyche and our way of life," said U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "It shook our collective sense of security. But it also brought us together, and challenged us to do more to protect our country."

A long-time member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Rockefeller served as chairman of the committee from January 2007 through January 2009. He noted he is "keenly aware of the transformation that has taken place in our national security" as the result of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Department of Homeland Security was established in November 2002 in response to the terrorist attacks happening just a year before. The agency is charged with protecting America in "civilian ways" not typically addressed by the military.

Also created during the past decade was the Transportation Security Administration, charged with protecting the nation's transportation systems from terrorist attacks.

"We developed better systems for intelligence agencies to share information more seamlessly, identify threats and prevent attacks from happening in the first place," Rockefeller said. "It's because of that intense collaboration that we were able to take down Osama bin Laden, and why we haven't suffered a major terrorist attack since 9/11."

And Rockefeller promises "we're not finished yet." An issue discovered during the 9/11 attacks was that emergency service agencies couldn't communicate with each other when called together during an emergency.

Earlier this year, Rockefeller introduced Senate Bill 28, The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, which directs the Federal Communications Commission to establish a nationwide band available in all rural and urban areas that can be accessed by all public safety agencies.

"It's time we put our best technology to work for the safety of the American people and for the police and firefighters and emergency professionals who put their lives on the line to protect us," Rockefeller said. " I hope the 10th anniversary of 9/11 will be the catalyst that causes Congress to act on my bill."

The Cost of Military and Humanitarian Aid Post 9/11

Manchin has been to Afghanistan twice in recent years to review American war efforts there. His first visit was in 2005 while serving as governor of West Virginia, and he returned there in January after taking office in the Senate. He said he didn't see much improvement there in the time between his visits, and he believes the money being spent there could be better used domestically to "rebuild America."

"There is no question that we should spend the money necessary to defend and protect the people of this country," Manchin said. "I'm committed to the war on terror and to keeping America strong. But just throwing money at a war without a clear mission and objectives won't do the job.

The 9/11 attacks "put a greater financial strain on a system that is already stretched, and it adds to our financial challenges."

He cited Congressional Budget Office figures showing defense spending in 2001 was $305 billion. In 2011, that figure has more than doubled to reach $768 billion, according to Manchin.

Military spending alone jumped from $290 billion in 2001 to $740 billion this year, he continued, noting homeland security spending has more than tripled during that time from $15 billion to $48 billion.

"And you have to ask yourself, are we a safer, better world today?" Manchin said.

"I have been and will continue to be a strong and outspoken advocate of ending the wars that we no longer need to fight and to focus our resources fighting terrorism wherever it is and on rebuilding America."

A New Reality - And Renewed American Spirit McKinley noted that on Sept. 11, 2001, "our country was changed but not broken."

"President Bush faced - and President Obama now faces - a different reality than previous presidents when it comes to our national security," he said. "In the wake of Sept. 11, our government was forced to take drastic measures to ensure our country's safety. That has justifiably caused concerns among small-government conservatives and liberty-minded independents and Democrats."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said what she remembers most about Sept. 11, 2001, "is the way our nation came together immediately after seeing the stunning footage of the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks."

"It's hard to believe a decade has passed since that dark September day," she said. "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families as they remember and reflect on this especially poignant anniversary.

"As West Virginians, we showed our caring and compassion as we organized supply drives for the victims in New York and prayed for the families of the missing or wounded. I am humbled by and proud of the brave men and women who serve in the United States armed forces and intelligence operations, many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom at home and abroad."

Brown continued that 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, "America lives on."

"We cannot afford to forget what happened, nor can we forget what can happen when Americans come together," he said.

"The United States we know today survived challenges as great as two world wars and the landmark civil rights struggle of the 1960s. But no matter the circumstances, Americans have long refused to give up when difficult times seemed impossible to surpass. Generations of Americans have banded together to counter the challenges we face, and 9/11 has been no different," Brown said. 

By:  Joselyn King