Secretary of Homeland Security delivers lecture, celebrates NBAF

K-State Alumni Communications, with information from Division of Communications and Marketing

Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered a Landon Lecture at Kansas State University on May 27. (Photo: K-State Communications and Marketing)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited Kansas State University on May 27, celebrating the groundbreaking of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility on the northeast edge of the Manhattan campus and delivering a Landon Lecture. In his remarks, Johnson highlighted the important role communities and everyday Americans play in the prevention of terrorism.

“Terrorism cannot prevail if the people refuse to be terrorized,” he said to the crowd gathered for the lecture in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union. "Our homeland security efforts must involve the public at large, too … we do need your help.” 

The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility will play a role in those homeland security efforts. The $1.25 billion project will be the foremost animal disease research facility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lab construction is slated for completion in December 2020, but will likely take two years or more after that before NBAF is fully operational.

Maintaining homeland security continues to be a challenge in an often dangerous world, said Johnson, who has served as secretary of the department since 2013. Although the department has a variety of missions — including aviation security, cyber security, natural disaster response and the protection of national leaders — the cornerstone remains counter-terrorism.  

“It is still a dangerous world, and there is a new reality to the global terrorist threat,” he said.  

Federal, state and local officials broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility on May 27. The lab's central utility plant has been under construction since 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in October. (Photo: K-State Photo Services)
In the 14 years since 9/11, global terrorism has become more decentralized and harder to detect, Johnson said. The United States is facing more threats on a smaller scale in the form of homegrown or home-based attacks, such as the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Terrorists use the Internet to publicly recruit more terrorists and “inspire” local terrorist attacks. 

Johnson said the key to facing this new threat is to detect plots at their earliest stages, find and fix vulnerabilities in U.S. defense, and cooperate with allies on security measures and technology. The Department of Homeland Security is working with local law enforcement officers, who could be the first to detect a small-scale terrorist attack in their community. He also urged citizens to be alert and to report anything suspicious they see, following the principle of “if you see something, say something.” 

“We as Americans want to demonstrate that we are not afraid,” he said. “We are not going to run and hide from things like this.” 

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