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Bush Outlines 'New Reality' Steps to Improve Homeland Security

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2002 – In the first war of the 21st century, "the battlefield is here at home," and America's police, firefighters and rescue workers are on the front lines, President Bush said this morning.

"Like our military, which is also on the front line of the war against terror, you deserve all the tools and resources to do your work," the president said after touring Washington's downtown Emergency Operations Center. "The country is going to support you, because we now understand the stakes."

The threat of terrorist attack is growing, so the need for action is important, Bush stressed. "One of my jobs is to make sure nobody gets complacent," he said. "One of my jobs is to remind people of the stark realities that we face."

Every morning in the Oval Office, he said, he reads threats to the country. "Some are blowhards, but we take every one of them seriously. It's the new reality," he added.

The nation is adjusting, Bush said. Customs agents are now at overseas ports inspecting containers. More federal marshals are traveling on commercial airplanes. Officials have stepped up security at power plants, ports and border crossings. Officials have also deployed detection equipment to look for weapons of mass destruction to better protect the American people.

"There is a real threat that somebody might smuggle in one of these weapons that would create incredible havoc here at home, so we're on alert," Bush said. "We're stockpiling enough smallpox vaccine for every man, woman and child in America."

The U.S. Patriot Act is helping local, state and federal law enforcement officials detect and disrupt terrorist activity within America's borders.

"What I'm telling you there is that anytime we get a hint that somebody is thinking about doing something to America, we're moving on it," he said. "Anytime we get an inkling that somebody is planning to hurt the American people, to take innocent life, we're using every tool we can to disrupt and deny."

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, every level of government has taken steps to better defend against terrorism. "There should be no doubt in anybody's mind the nature of the enemy," Bush said. "There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that we should do all we can to protect the homeland."

Bush again called on Congress to approve a new Cabinet-level department. "The single most important business before Congress is the creation of the Department of Homeland Security," he said.

The new department would enable government and law enforcement officials to better coordinate and organize and provide clear lines of authority, he asserted. Currently, more than 100 federal organizations are involved in protecting the homeland, but no one of them has primary responsibility, he said.

"Each agency operates separately, sometimes completely unaware of what others are doing," Bush said. "The result is duplication that we cannot afford, and inefficiencies which create problems."

Three agencies, for example, are on the nation's borders. "They're all full of fine people," he said. "They wear different uniforms. They have different strategies. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they don't. There is a better way to enforce our border here in America."

The new department would bring together scientists to develop technologies to detect biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and discover drugs to protect U.S. citizens. Information on threats would be gathered and analyzed in one place.

The new department would work with state and local authorities to avert attacks and to plan for and respond to emergencies. Bush said he seeks a single department, "staffed by dedicated professionals, who wake up every single day with one overriding duty -- to protect the American people."

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