Obama said Thursday at the National Defense University that al-Qaida was weakened more than 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks now that Osama bin Laden was dead, the war in Iraq was over and the conflict in Afghanistan was winding down.
He said the United States was still threatened by terrorists but the threats were from a less capable al-Qaida.
"Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us," he said.
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Obama was off the mark given the evolution of al-Qaida in places such as Yemen and the Sahel region of Africa.
"The troubling reality is that the president continues to underestimate the serious threat that al-Qaida and its affiliated and inspired terrorists present to Americans," he said in a statement.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Obama's national security shift moved the focus away from al-Qaida, leaving the homeland at risk.
"This war will continue whether the president acknowledges it or not," he said in a statement.
Obama promised to do more to close the controversial prison facility at Guantanamo Bay and to amend policies regarding targeting strikes against terrorists using unmanned drones.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, said he's been closely involved in national security issues since his time on Capitol Hill.
"I applaud President Obama's strong leadership in defending the United States of America and advancing our interests around the world," he said.