Sen. Carper gives federal response to oil spill 'B minus'

Wednesday - 6/16/2010, 5:26pm EDT

Sen. Tom Carper, (D-Del.)

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

Congress wants to know how much money the federal government is spending in the Gulf Coast region to clean up the oil spill.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on Wednesday to look at that issue.

The purpose was three-fold: to find out how much money the federal government is spending on responding to the disaster and how the expenses will be recouped, where vulnerabilities currently exist in the current process for claims, and the future liability of the oil spill trust fund.

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) gave Federal News Radio a one-on-one preview on Tuesday before the hearing, saying that the administration has done a decent job, but there is clearly room for improvement.

"If I were grading it, I would say B minus. Can we do better? Sure we can do better. There's always room for improvement. I like to say, if it isn't perfect, make it better. From the beginning I think the administration sent their senior team to the Gulf, they've been there often and [are] attempting to partner with the state and local folks in a way that, as a former governor, I appreciate."

The Senator said it is clear that a variety of people dropped the ball, but now that the damage is done, solving the problem of the continuous oil flow is what is most immediately important.

"The tough thing is, [it is] 5,000 feet under the surface of the ocean and we don't have the ability to send people down there. We have to use these robots in an environment where we're frankly just not used to working. That's the hand we've been dealt, and we have to make sure -- one, [that we] find out what happened. What caused this catastrophe. Why didn't the backup systems work? Second, do we have other potential disaster out there that are almost like time bombs that are waiting to go off? What can we do to make sure that, if there is another accident, we don't have to spend months figuring out how to contain it."

Senator Carper has also been working on updating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and Federal News Radio has been telling you about S. 3480, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010. Senator Carper is one of the co-authors of the bill, and says it is important to take up the overall idea of cybersecurity and get it passed.

"[At] almost every moment of every day, bad people around the world are trying to hack into our systems, and they're not just kids that are doing this for a lark. They're criminals. There are sovereign nations. They're trying to steal our military secrets, our sensitive information, private information. They're trying to steal our intellectual property rights. We don't want to go into this gunfight with a knife. We want to go into it well armed, and that's what we're going to do, I think, with this legislation."