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Roemer tackles U.S. security issues

Meghan Wons | Friday, September 15, 2006

The U.S. isn’t as safe as it needs to be – and lawmakers aren’t doing enough, a former U.S. Representative and member of the 9/11 Commission said Thursday.

Tim Roemer, current president of the Center for National Policy, spoke on “Safeguarding America: National Security in the 21st Century” to a packed auditorium in DeBartolo Hall Thursday night.

Roemer focused on three main topics – the current state of our national security, the restructuring of the intelligence community and the role of foreign policy in achieving national security.

“With the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 just behind us, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to talk about this,” Roemer said.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been talking about progress, Roemer said, and questioning how the U.S. is doing.

He said the Commission has suggested 41 reforms, and the White House has passed about 20.

“We’re halfway there, but it’s not good enough,” Roemer said. “Our lawmakers are not acting on our ideas.”

In December 2005, the Commission, a bipartisan organization, issued a report card to the government to assess the progress the government had made on their recommendations.

The government received twelve Ds, five Fs, and two incompletes, Roemer said.

“Does that make you feel safer?” he asked the audience.

Roemer cited the growth of al Qaeda, the 60 percent growth in the Afghani opium trade and the continued loss of U.S. troops as indicators of a disappointing lack of progress since Sept. 11.

“The metrics don’t look good,” he said.

Roemer said the 9/11 Report suggested the need for a more direct line of communication between the intelligence community and politicians.

“The restructuring of our intelligence community needs to occur with strong congressional oversight and balance,” he said.

He questioned whether Homeland Security was truly fit for going after such a “nimble threat.”

“Maybe we need to revisit Homeland Security. Was it created to fight the Cold War? Can it take on the threats of the 21st century?” Roemer said. “… We need to elevate this debate. If the candidates don’t do it … we need to. Your vote really matters.”

The U.S. needs to reexamine its foreign policy and let allies know “we care about their ideas.”

“We need to let the Middle East know we care about them as people,” he said.

Ultimately, the U.S. must focus on building military and intelligence, protecting the homeland and rising to conquer the jihadists.

“We need to convey to the rest of the world that America’s priorities and ideas are so much better than bin Laden’s,” Roemer said.

Roemer spoke of the importance of moving forward and taking action. He promoted micro enterprise loans for the poor and education and cultural exchanges. He spoke of the inspiration he drew, and hoped all Americans would draw, from the “Sept. 11 families.”

“They didn’t stop – if a congressman wouldn’t meet with them, they’d go to the local district … they wouldn’t let it go because they love this country so much,” he said. “What a great example to us, Republicans and Democrats, of how we can get involved.”

Roemer’s talk was followed by a question and answer session that expanded the discussion from national security to other issues such as U.S. involvement in Egypt, the U.S. detainee policy and the Israel-Palestine debate.

“We’ve got a lot to do, a lot of problems to take on. And we can do it because we are Americans,” Roemer said.

Roemer served the 3rd District of Indiana from 1991 to 2003 in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was appointed in 2002 to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission.

But before that, he was a member of the Notre Dame family – literally.

Roemer earned masters and doctoral degrees from Notre Dame, his mother worked at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns and his father served as Dean of Students, professor R. Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Institute, said in his introduction Thursday evening.

“If you cut him, he very well may bleed blue and gold,” Appleby said.

Roemer said he was “privileged to be back home at Notre Dame with people who do such fine research and academic work and endeavor to support peace and justice.”

“There are so many good memories here and I’m so proud of the teaching here – the teaching of values,” Roemer said.

Roemer’s appearance was sponsored by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Department of Political Science and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.