NPR logo Revisiting the Sept. 11 Panel's Recommendations

Revisiting the Sept. 11 Panel's Recommendations

A tug boat docks near a cargo ship at the Port of Miami. The new Democratic majority in Congress says it wants 100 percent of the cargo bound for the United States in ships and airplanes to be screened for dangerous materials. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats say that one of their first actions in the new Congress will be to implement all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. But it’s not exactly clear what that means, since some of the commission’s 41 recommendations are vague.

The Bush administration argues that most of the panel's proposals have either been implemented or acted upon by Congress. For example, one of the main recommendations was the creation of a centralized office to oversee all U.S. intelligence operations; in response, Congress created a new director of national intelligence office nearly two years ago. Congress has also acted over the past two years on legislation to strengthen security at U.S. borders, ports and chemical facilities — all along the lines of the commission’s recommendations.

Still, there’s much more to be done, according to Democrats.

They note that police, firefighters and other emergency personnel still don’t have enough equipment to communicate with each other during disasters.

And Democrats say they want 100 percent of the cargo bound for the United States in ships and airplanes to be screened for dangerous materials. The question is whether the new Congress will be willing to take the steps needed to accomplish these things.

Other commission recommendations might face more resistance. One calls for the distribution of homeland security funds to state and local governments based on "risk," not political considerations. However, there's no real agreement on what "risk" means, and the biggest resistance to that proposal all along has come from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who think their communities would lose out. It's not clear how that will change with the Democrats in control.

Also, the commission called for more centralized congressional oversight of homeland security. But there's been a reluctance among many committee chairmen to relinquish jurisdiction to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees. It's not clear that that reluctance will be any different under Democratic control.

Still, the Democratic Congress is more likely to provide additional funding for homeland security, as well as more oversight of what exactly the administration is doing to protect the country from terrorist attacks.