Bush Lauds Passage of Law Approving Homeland Security Department
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2002 President Bush hailed the Nov. 19 passage of a law authorizing the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security as a "historic and bold step."
The U.S. Senate voted 90-9 to approve the largest federal government reorganization since the World War II era.
"This landmark legislation will help our nation meet the emerging threats of terrorism in the 21st century," Bush said in a Nov. 19 statement issued by the White House. The president is attending the NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic.
The new department will encompass 170,000 employees from various areas in several other Cabinet departments. It will assume responsibility for the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Animal and Plant Inspection Service, and the Transportation Security Administration.
In earlier congressional testimony, homeland security adviser Tom Ridge said the No. 1 priority of the new department will be to prevent future terrorist attacks on the United States.
Bush said in his statement that he looks forward to signing the legislation. He commended the employees who will move into the new department for their hard work and dedication to the war on terrorism. "Setting up this new department will take time, but I know we will meet the challenge together," he said.
The Senate also voted Nov. 19 to approve a measure allowing the federal government to back up insurance companies in the event of future terrorist attacks. Bush has said the lack of such a law has slowed construction and has cost the country countless jobs in the building trades because insurers won't cover building projects as readily as before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Terrorism insurance will help get America's hard hats back on the job, create new jobs for America's workers and spur billions in new investment in construction projects all across the country," Bush said in a separate statement. "This bill comes at a critical time, as commercial construction is at a six-year low."