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Senator Hassan Presses Homeland Security Nominees on Need to Modernize & Strengthen Border Security, Combat International Terrorism

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today pressed Department of Homeland Security nominees on threats to U.S. security, including the need to modernize technology to strengthen border security. Senator Hassan also raised concerns about the continued threat facing the U.S. from international terrorism and the need to combat online radicalization. 


To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.


Strengthening Border Security


Senator Hassan pushed Dimitri Kusnezov, nominee for Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security, to commit to developing and deploying modern technologies to improve U.S. border security. Senator Hassan discussed the need to counter drones used for smuggling or attacks and the importance of new detection systems that can screen people or vehicles before they reach the border. In response, Mr. Kusnezov highlighted his shared belief that understanding the emerging technology landscape is an important aspect of his department and the need to further modernize technology at the border.


Addressing International Terrorism Threats and Online Radicalization


Senator Hassan also spoke with Kenneth Wainstein, nominee for the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, about the need to stay focused on terrorism threats from abroad and the continued risk of online radicalization.


In the hearing, Senator Hassan stated, “International terrorists and home-grown violent extremists continue to pose a grave threat to our homeland security. This includes the threat of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda trying to reestablish operations from Afghanistan’s Kunar province, or elsewhere” and asked Mr. Wainstein how he would ensure sufficient personnel to address these threats. 


In response, Mr. Wainstein said, “ISIS, Al Qaeda, they have not gone away. We kicked them out of Afghanistan in 2001 and they just regenerated. They started franchising around the world…we got to remain vigilant. And now we have to be extra vigilant given that the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan and we have to be very careful, use the over the horizon power that we have to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorism.”


Senator Hassan also discussed her concern around the role online radicalization can play in increasing the “speed and severity of violent acts,” securing Mr. Wainstein’s commitment to take online radicalization seriously and to make sure that the resources match the prioritization in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.


Modernizing IT Across DHS


As chair of the Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee, Senator Hassan also pressed nominee for Under Secretary for Management of the Department of Homeland Security, William Valdez, to take steps to modernize “outdated and obsolete technology” that could “harm [the U.S. government’s] ability to deliver services and prevent cyberattacks.”


The questioning follows up on Senator Hassan’s work to highlight the cost and challenges presented by the government’s reliance on legacy IT. Last year, Senator Hassan held a hearing on the costs and challenges presented by the government’s reliance on legacy IT and cosponsored bipartisan legislation that was passed into law that expanded the use of technology Center of Excellence to help accelerate the adoption of the latest technologies by government agencies.