It’s been a week of unrest, of massive investigation, of more bombings in Syria. I’d be silly to say ‘this is how it is.’ Things are changing too fast, but the universal question that you hear today will remain the same. Not just because of what happened in Paris, but because it’s a question we have been asking ourselves since 9/11: Am I safe?
I wanted to reference that question today as we think about our homes, and our children. Are we safe? That question has been the focus of my career. How do I keep you safe? How do I keep the marathon safe? The transit system safe? The job of anyone in homeland security is a constant juggling act. How do we balance safety and freedom? The risk and the reward. It’s a constant calculation of what is an acceptable level of vulnerability.
So what is homeland security? Homeland security is as much about the homeland as it is about security. And the United States homeland is really like no other, with 50 governors, hundreds of transit systems, vast commercial activity, and criss-crossing boarders, and respect for civil rights. We are a nation of law and that makes us inherently vulnerable.
I’m not saying we should throw up our hands in light of what happened in Paris and say we’re all doomed, but we do need to conceptualize the notion of our safety differently. It is about minimizing risk, maximizing our protections, and maintaining a vigorous first response capability. It’s not simple, but that’s how we have to think about our homeland security.