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United States Senate



Homeland Security

Senator Akaka is the third senior Democrat of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which he joined in 1990.  Since 1999, he has served as either Chairman or Ranking Member of one of the Committee's three Subcommittees.  Through his position on the Committee, Senator Akaka has played a key role in developing critical homeland security legislation and conducting thorough oversight of the Executive Branch agencies charged with protecting our nation.


Senator Akaka continually fights to ensure that Hawaii's unique needs as a state 2,500 miles away from the mainland are not forgotten.  When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was being organized in the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Senator Akaka worked to elevate the Honolulu field office of ICE to a Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) office from an Associate SAC office to ensure prompt and direct communication with Washington, DC.  He also thwarted attempts within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to close the Honolulu-based Pacific Area Office, which Senator Akaka helped to establish in 1992. 

In meetings with senior Washington officials, including private meetings with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Senator Akaka has delivered the message that the needs of Hawaii must be fully represented by the Executive Branch.  He has met with commanding officers of both the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) obtaining their guarantees that Hawaii is an integral part of national disaster response planning.

All Hazards Protection

Senator Akaka is on the forefront of efforts to ensure an all-hazards approach to preventing, responding, and recovering from disasters, either natural or manmade. He is a long-time supporter of pre-disaster mitigation programs, including the private-public partnership program called Project Impact that was established under the Clinton Administration.  When the Bush Administration sought to eliminate pre-disaster mitigation funding in 2002, Senator Akaka joined with his colleagues in Congress to preserve this critical program. 

During the creation of the DHS, Senator Akaka fought to protect the non-homeland security missions of DHS, such as natural disaster recovery, fisheries enforcement, and maritime search and rescue.  In 2002, he successfully amended the Committee's version of the Homeland Security Act requiring all non-homeland security functions of each of the 22 legacy agencies to be identified, along with the resources needed to preserve these functions.  Unfortunately, the version of the bill passed by Congress failed to include the amendment, which is one of the reasons Senator Akaka was one of nine Senators who voted against the creation of DHS.

Since DHS' creation, Senator Akaka has taken action to make it efficient and transparent in its operations. He passed legislation to bring the department under the Chief Financial Officer Act and is working to establish a Chief Management Officer for DHS.  Most recently, following the debacle of the Department's response to Hurricane Katrina, Senator Akaka is now pushing legislation to ensure that the Department is led by qualified professionals and not by unqualified political appointees.  He also working to ensure the Department is capable to responding to all types of emergencies.

In 2001, prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Senator Akaka examined FEMA's role in disaster preparedness and mitigation, including the use of new technologies such as detailed satellite imagery, mapping, and statistical data bases by federal agencies in aid of state and local officials.  As a consequence of his work, Senator Akaka authored legislation which created an Office of Geospatial Management in the Department of Homeland Security in 2004.  Geospatial information plays a critical role in responding to disasters especially in a state such as Hawaii with locales separated by water.

Unconventional Threats

Senator Akaka also believes in protecting Hawaii and the rest of the United States against tomorrow's threat instead of simply focusing on the lessons of the past.  Through his position on the Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees, he assesses potential new threats and presses for effective measures to prevent, deter, and respond to these threats, including conventional and non-conventional attacks using biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

Senator Akaka has been in the forefront of efforts, for example, to protect against a pandemic flu, such as H51N avian flu.  He has urged the President to adopt a multi-layer, multinational approach to detecting and isolating viruses before they can spread.  At the Senator's request the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent, non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, has undertaken several major investigations into how best prepare against the flu.  He has encouraged the President to deploy overseas public health specialists and veterinarians to detect a virus in its early stages and he has called for more international assistance to countries least able to defend themselves.  At the same time he has called on DHS to develop sophisticated response plans in order to maintain critical services, such as water, power, transportation, and financial services, in the event a pandemic forces the nation to adopt a quarantine strategy.

His concern over health and the need to protect against the worst case scenario is another reason why Senator Akaka has pioneered initiatives in the U.S. Senate to protect against bioterrorism and radioactive attacks.  Recognizing that a public health risk might first appear in the agricultural sector, such as that caused by the avian flu, Senator Akaka has championed legislation to increase federal, state, and local government coordination in confronting bioterrorism threats. 

Senator Akaka is also working to guard against a "dirty bomb" attack using radioactive material.  He introduced S. 979, the Safe Storage of Radiological Materials Act of 2005, to strengthen the United States' capability to safely and securely dispose of low-level radioactive waste.  His measure was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which became law on August 8, 2005.  In addition, GAO continues to undertake studies for Senator Akaka on how to improve international efforts to store radioactive material so it will not fall in the hands of terrorists.

Port Security

Senator Akaka understands the need to protect Hawaii's and the nation's critical infrastructure from terrorist attack, especially seaports and airports.  He supports S. 2791, a transportation security bill which will improve examination of cargo before it reaches U.S. shores and allow for speedy resumption of commerce after a security breach.  Senator Akaka has fought against the Administration's efforts to fold all critical infrastructure grants into one program thereby minimizing the importance of port security and likely reducing the overall amount of funding directed to critical infrastructure.  Senator Akaka is seeking Transportation Security Administration resources for additional security screeners and screening machines at Hawaii's major airports.

State and Local Coordination

Ensuring federal agencies work cooperatively with state and local governments while giving them the tools and resources to do their jobs is a central theme of Senator Akaka's mission in the United States Senate. 

A key example is Senator Akaka's championship of the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program, which funds 50 percent of the salaries of Hawaii State Civil Defense personnel.  Because of Senator Akaka's efforts, the Senate voted to increase substantially EMPG funding for 2007.  Senator Akaka also routinely works with State Civil Defense in navigating federal bureaucracy when communication and coordination challenges arise between the State and DHS.

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