National Security Experts

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Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas

Biography provided by participant

A fifth generation Texan, Mac Thornberry has strong ties to the people he serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Thornberry is a lifelong resident of the 13th District of Texas. His family has been ranching in the area since 1881 - a family business in which Thornberry remains actively involved. Thornberry is a longtime advocate of lower taxes and limited government. Boosting domestic energy production, protecting private property rights, supporting agriculture and reforming health care are top priorities for Thornberry. Thornberry has established himself as a leader on national security. He currently serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Thornberry was one of the first in Congress to recognize the need to confront the threat of terrorism. Six months before the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Thornberry introduced a bill to create a new Department of Homeland Security, which formed the basis of legislation signed into law by President Bush 20 months later. Thornberry has also played a major role in shaping national policy on transformation of the military and strategic nuclear issues. He is at the forefront of efforts in Congress to protect the country from threats ranging from terrorist attacks to cyber intrusion. For more on Thornberry's work on national security click here. Six months before 9/11, on March 21, 2001, Thornberry Thornberry introduced a bill to establish a National Homeland Security Agency to better protect our country from terrorist attacks. Drawing on the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman Commission, Thornberry's bill served as the foundation for the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. Thornberry has consistently been on the leading edge of critical national security issues, from homeland security and nonproliferation to transformation of the military, nuclear deterrence, and cybersecurity. Defense News called Thornberry "a smart hawk who's not afraid to buck the party line." Congressional Quarterly identified him as one of the the key lawmakers shaping the agenda of the "War Congress." National Journal identified him as a "Republican to watch," calling him an E.F. Hutton of Congress (because when he talks about defense and homeland security issues, people -- and his colleagues on Capitol Hill -- listen). Esquire says he's "a distinguished thinker on defense issues and foreign affairs" and "an informed, dispassionate expert on national security and intelligence." Thornberry has written widely on defense matters and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, CBS, ABC, and C-SPAN to provide congressional insight on homeland and national security issues. Appointed in late 2004 to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Thornberry has immersed himself in the complex intelligence challenges facing the nation. In the 111th Congress, he is the top Republican on the Tactical and Technical Intelligence Subcommittee, which has responsibility for overseeing the programs, activities, and budgets of the National Reconnaissance Program, the National Geospatial Intelligence Program, the Consolidated Cryptologic Program, and the technical collection activities associated with the CIA and with DOD activities funded through the Military Intelligence Program. In the 109th Congress, he served as the first Chairman of the newly created Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight, where he focused primarily on overseeing the implementation of the reforms contained in the "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004," also known as the "9/11 Bill," and on improving the management of the intelligence community. The subcommittee also played a significant role in issues related to the intelligence community's response to terrorism. Thornberry has served on the Armed Services Committee since he entered Congress. He is a senior member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities Subcommittee, where he served as the subcommittee's top Republican during the 110th Congress. Thornberry has pushed strategic communications issues, as well as advocating for greater interagency cooperation in the fight against violent extremists. He also believes it is essential for the United States to develop a deep understanding of terrorism in order to take appropriate action to prevent its spread. From 1999 through 2002, Thornberry served as chairman of a special Armed Services Committee panel that conducted oversight of the reorganization of the nations' nuclear weapons complex. He was the leading advocate in the House for organizational reform that led to the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, charged with ensuring the nuclear weapons complex is properly managed and that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains viable and a part of the strategic deterrent against future adversaries. During the 108th Congress, Thornberry was appointed to the Select Committee on Homeland Security and served as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development. His main efforts focused on developing the government partnership with the private sector which is essential in protecting vital infrastructure across the nation and in ensuring that the U.S. remains a leader in Homeland Security science and technology. In addition, Thornberry has been a member of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, Transformation Advisory Group (TAG) since its inception. The TAG provides the military with advice on defense and transformation policies and future issues. Thornberry was one of the members urging for the creation of the Command in order to ensure that the military had a voice for future needs and requirements. Thornberry was a member of the CSIS Smart Power Commission which issued its report in November 2007 arguing that the nation needs to have the full range of instruments of natural power and influence in order to accomplish our national policy goals. He serves on the Executive Steering Committee of the Strategic Policy Forum, a group organized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to conduct war games and exercises in which Members of Congress and officials from the Executive Branch can participate together to shed light on current and future national security challenges. Thornberry is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent Responses

May 24, 2010 07:29 AM

Admiral Dennis Blair’s selection as the Director of National Intelligence 16 months ago gave many of us increased confidence in the Obama national security team. He had years of experience dealing with national security issues. As a combatant commander, he had managed a large organization. And without a political background, he could be a straight-shooting professional who would rise above politics and just focus on keeping the country safe.

A variety of semi-leaks have mixed with speculation on the reasons that Blair was asked to leave. Some indicate that he was not politically savvy enough for the job and was outmaneuvered by CIA Director Leon Panetta. Others relate to his excessive bluntness in answering questions during congressional hearings. Still others say that he was made to take responsibility for recent intelligence lapses which failed to detect the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombing attempts.

It seems likely that Blair was not political enough for this White House and that he chaffed under the micromanagement of National Security

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May 12, 2010 11:07 AM

Three things strike me about the failed terror bombing in Times Square. 1. We were lucky. Just as with the attempted Christmas Day bombing, there was not one thing that the government did to prevent the bomb from exploding and killing hundreds of people. We should admire the law enforcement work that found and arrested the suspect, but we should not delude ourselves that the government prevented him from being successful. Only his incompetence managed that. 2. We need to use all of the tools we can constitutionally in order to prevent terrorist attacks – not just arrest the terrorist afterwards. The Obama Administration has taken some of the most effective tools – such as the CIA’s interrogation program – off the table. When the next bomb is ticking away in Times Square, we may wish they had not done so. 3. In his book Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, Marc Sageman wrote in 2008 that: "The strategy

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