Rep. Donovan is new chairman of House security panel (commentary)
I'm honored to have been appointed chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. In that role, I'll be a leader in Congress in overseeing the federal government's disaster response and instituting policies that keep our communities secure.
In the past 15 years, our city has endured unimaginable tragedy. In 2001, hijackers introduced New Yorkers to the murderous hatred that defines radical Islamic terror. In 2012, we were reminded that ours is a coastal city, vulnerable to the same deadly storms as our neighbors to the south.
Future disasters will come, and when they do our government must be prepared.
In my new role as chairman, I intend to focus on finding solutions to three questions. Can the federal government do more to protect American cities against terrorist attacks? Are coastal regions like New York prepared for the next major storm? If, God forbid, terrorists succeed in launching a major attack in the United States, or if nature wreaks devastation on our community, are federal agencies up to the task of responding efficiently and effectively?
Earlier this month, President Obama released his budget proposal for next year. It takes a sledgehammer to homeland security programs for cities, including New York. Appropriations won't fall under my jurisdiction, but through the work of my subcommittee I intend to learn from the administration why they consider crucial programs like the Urban Areas Security Initiative expendable.
On the natural disaster front, it's been more than three years since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city. Since then, Sandy survivors have gone through the "storm after the storm" – fraudulent engineering reports, endless bureaucracy, and the hope but uncertainty that they'll be any better off the next time a storm comes. None of this can be pinned on any particular agency or person.
What's clear, though, is government can do better.
I'm honored to serve you in this new role. I've lived on Staten Island all my life. Anybody who knows me – as district attorney and now as congressman – knows that I insist on being called "Danny," my nickname since I was a baby. When I think back to the small apartment my mom and dad raised me in, how they pooled what little they earned to send their boy Danny to Monsignor Farrell High School with the hope that he would have a better life, I'm humbled that I now have the opportunity to honor their sacrifices by making a difference in keeping our city and nation secure.
Safety and security are the most fundamental responsibilities of your government, and Staten Island and South Brooklyn have experienced first-hand the triumphs and failures of emergency response.
I will serve you proudly as your congressman – and now, with added responsibility, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications.
The writer (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) represents New York's 11th congressional district in the House of Representatives.