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Nation Safer Now Than Before 9/11, DoD Official Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 21, 2007 – America is safer today than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Defense Department’s top homeland defense official said today.

It is no accident that America has not suffered another terrorist attack on its home soil since 9/11, Acting Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense Peter F. Verga said after delivering opening remarks at the department’s first Homeland Defense Conference here.

“My view is that the only reason we haven’t been attacked is the enemy has not been able to do it,” Verga said. “They’re not waiting for some strategic opportunity. They’re going to attack us when they can, however they can do it. The fact that they have not been able to is a direct result of what we’ve been doing around the world.”

Verga warned, however, that although America has made much progress, more can be done, and he said he doubts there will ever be a time that a terrorist threat no longer exists.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are safer,” he said. “I’m not sure that we will ever be safe from this particular threat. This is one of those threats that is so difficult to deal with. You can’t protect every place, every time from every conceivable threat.”

Verga said DoD wanted to bring together officials who work homeland defense issues from across the services, defense agencies and combatant commands. He said he hopes the conference broadens the understanding of the department, brings to light any issues outside Washington and identifies any needed policy guidance.

“We get ideas … by talking to people out in the field and seeing what they are doing on a day-to-day basis and what we can do to help,” Verga said.

Verga noted that DoD Homeland Defense also responds to natural disasters on behalf of the department. DoD is doing a better job planning for all types of emergencies, Verga said, working with civilian and interagency counterparts such as Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This will help the agencies work together in the event of major disasters, he said.

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