Homeland Security
Securing the Nation against terrorism and natural disasters

"I believe that we should enhance our international partnerships, use imagination and risk-based thinking in exploring potential threats, and give our security workforce the range of tools, training, and support it needs to protect the American people." 

Senator Akaka is the third most senior Democrat of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which he joined in 1990, and he is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.  Since 1999, he has served as either Chairman or Ranking Member of one of the Committee's three permanent Subcommittees.

Senator Akaka plays a key role in developing critical homeland security legislation and conducting thorough oversight of the Executive Branch agencies charged with protecting our nation.  He is focused on improving effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency of the Federal departments and agencies focused on national security, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  
Over the course of many years, Senator Akaka has fought to ensure that Hawaii's unique needs as a state 2,500 miles away from the mainland are met.  When the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was being organized in the newly-formed DHS, Senator Akaka worked to elevate the Honolulu field office of ICE to a Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) office from an Associate SAC office to facilitate prompt and direct communication with Washington, D.C.  He also worked to establish and maintain the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Pacific Area Office, which is headquartered in Honolulu.  Since 1992, the Pacific Area Office has supported preparedness activities in Hawaii and critical disaster response throughout the Pacific region.  In September 2009, the Office facilitated coordinated response efforts in American Samoa in the aftermath of a massive tsunami, serving as a staging ground for emergency supplies and response personnel from Oahu and the West Coast.

In meetings with senior Washington officials, Senator Akaka continues to deliver the message that the needs of Hawaii must be an integral part of Federal disaster response planning.  He has raised Hawaii's needs with commanding officers of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and other senior Executive Branch officials.

Current Priorities
Through his senior role on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Senator Akaka will work to ensure that:

  • Hawaii's unique homeland security needs are addressed;

  • The United States takes an all-hazards approach to preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters, whether they are natural, accidental, or intentional; and

  • Our Federal departments and agencies charged with defending the nation are more effective in carrying out their critical responsibilities.

Recent Accomplishments and Activities

Unconventional Threats

Senator Akaka is at the forefront of efforts to protect against a pandemic flu, such as the 2009 outbreak of the novel H1N1 flu and outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu.  At the Senator's request, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, has undertaken several major investigations into how best to prepare against pandemic flu, including protecting the Federal workforce.  He has encouraged the President to deploy overseas public health specialists and veterinarians to detect disease outbreaks in their early stages and has called for more international assistance to go to the most vulnerable countries.  At the same time, Senator Akaka has called on DHS to develop sophisticated response plans in order to maintain critical services, such as water, power, transportation, and financial services, in the event of a severe pandemic.

Senator Akaka also has pioneered initiatives in the U.S. Senate to protect against bioterrorism and radioactive attacks.  Recognizing that a public health risk might first appear in the agricultural sector, such as the risk caused by avian flu, Senator Akaka has championed efforts to increase Federal, state, and local government coordination to confront bioterrorism and other biological threats.   In 2009, Senator Akaka held a hearing that highlighted the shortage of federal veterinarians, who would be needed to respond to acts of agroterrorism or animal disease outbreaks.  At Senator Akaka's urging, key Federal agencies are now working together to address their veterinarian workforce gaps and increase their ability to respond to crises.  To further highlight the importance of preparedness against agricultural-related homeland security threats, Senator Akaka introduced bipartisan legislation in 2010 that would establish a chief veterinary officer at DHS. The GAO, at his request, continues to investigate our nation's public health and veterinary capabilities, which compose our first line of defense against dangerous disease outbreaks.

Preventing nuclear terrorism is also among the Senator's top concerns.  He believes that securing dangerous nuclear and radiological materials at their source is critical to that effort.  Senator Akaka introduced the Energy Development Program Implementation Act of 2009, which would help reduce the availability of nuclear technology around the world and strengthen international renewable energy efforts.  Additionally, he introduced the Strengthening the Oversight of Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 2009 to put in place nonproliferation and nuclear security recommendations of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.  Both measures were unanimously adopted as amendments to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs later that year.  Senator Akaka continues to raise concerns about inadequacies in the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office's (DNDO) investments in nuclear detection and radiography equipment and DNDO's nuclear detection strategy.  In addition, GAO continues to undertake studies for Senator Akaka that focus on increasing international nuclear security and nonproliferation efforts.

Port and Transportation Security

Senator Akaka understands the need to protect our ports and transportation infrastructure as well as listen to the concerns of Hawaii's maritime workers.  He successfully advocated having the Transportation Security Administration set up a mobile Transportation Worker Identification Credential enrollment and activation center to support maritime workers in West Hawaii.  Also, Senator Akaka fought against efforts to fold all critical infrastructure grants into one program, which could have minimized the importance of port security and reduced the overall amount of funding directed to critical infrastructure.

In addition to focusing on port security, Senator Akaka has provided key oversight over aviation security.  In the aftermath of the terrorist plot to bring down an airliner traveling to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, Senator Akaka called for a renewed focus on international aviation security partnerships and improved interagency coordination.  He has also monitored the troubled Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), which plays a critical role in providing security on our nation's flights.  Senator Akaka has been concerned about this agency's ability to cover high-priority flights, maintain air marshal morale, and respect whistleblower protections.

State and Local Coordination

Senator Akaka understands that Federal agencies must work cooperatively with state and local governments while giving them the tools and resources to do their jobs.

Senator Akaka works to build collaborative relationships between multiple levels of government.  For example, many states, including Hawaii, opposed the implementation of the REAL ID Act, as a costly unfunded mandate that infringes upon Americans' privacy.  Senator Akaka worked closely with the National Governors Association (NGA) to develop and introduce legislation, the Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification (PASS ID) Act of 2009, which would repeal REAL ID and replace it with a workable solution for states that incorporates greater privacy safeguards.  DHS and NGA strongly support PASS ID.

Additionally, because of Senator Akaka's advocacy for state and local emergency management efforts, the Senate voted to increase substantially the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program, which helps to fund the salaries of Hawaii State Civil Defense personnel.  Further, Senator Akaka also routinely works with Hawaii State Civil Defense in their effort to maintain effective communication and coordination between the state and DHS.  

National Security Staffing and Reform

Senator Akaka is focused on improving oversight in national security agencies, in particular within the Intelligence Community.  He introduced the Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2009, which passed the Senate as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2009.  He then worked with key Senate and House leaders to help get signed into law a compromise measure that reinforces GAO's ability to review the Intelligence Community's programs, while protecting against the disclosure of sensitive information related to intelligence sources and methods.  Senator Akaka believes that GAO will help Congress to ensure that intelligence agencies are operating effectively to protect America.

Senator Akaka is at the forefront of national leaders calling for improvements to our national security organizations and a renewed emphasis on diplomacy.  During the 111th Congress, he held hearings on better integrating and coordinating federal civilian national security employees to support a more unified response to national crises; diplomatic security; diplomatic readiness; reforming the security clearance process; agencies' capabilities in foreign language important to U.S. national security interests; and other important security issues.  These hearings have focused attention on management challenges, critical workforce shortages, strategic planning failures, and coordination problems.  Senator Akaka continues to work with GAO to investigate challenges to national and international security.  Recently, he has called upon GAO to look into issues at the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the State Department.

Constituent Services

  • Washington D.C. Office
  • Honolulu Office
  • Hilo Office

United States Senate

141 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Telephone: (202) 224-6361

Fax: (202) 224-2126


Honolulu Office

300 Ala Moana Blvd., Rm. 3-106

Box 50144

Honolulu, HI 96850

Telephone: (808) 522-8970

Fax: (808) 545-4683


Hilo Office

101 Aupuni Street, Suite 213

Hilo, HI 96720

Telephone: (808) 935-1114

Fax: (808) 935-9064