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New Agency Will Focus Priorities, Aid Response

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2002 – President Bush said that his proposed Homeland Security Department would help the government focus resources to protect the nation and allow existing agencies to be more responsive.

Bush, speaking at the New York City Port Authority terminal in Port Elizabeth, N.J., said the government must do everything it can to protect innocent lives. He said the "cold-blooded killers" arrayed against the United States will strike again and the Homeland Security Department would aid in defending against another strike.

"We've got to focus our priorities," Bush said. "We've got to set clear goals. If cultures need to be changed within agencies, we'll change the cultures, because this new war of the 21st century requires a hundred-percent focused effort to protect the homeland." Bush spoke at the terminal to highlight administration efforts to beef up security at seaports.

Under the Bush proposal, more than 100 agencies involved with aspects of homeland security will shift from their current agencies to the Cabinet-level department. If accepted, more than 160,000 federal workers will transfer to the new agency, including many of the people listening to the president at the terminal. The Homeland Security Department will include the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Transportation Safety Administration, and many others.

"It will make your jobs easier, for those of you involved with the agencies I'm talking about," Bush said of the new agency. "It will make our federal government more responsive. It will allow us to communicate better. It will allow all of you to make sure that the hard hours you're putting in are able to (better) secure the homeland."

A bipartisan group in Congress supports the idea. "I want to thank the members of Congress who understand that it's important to put their own personal turf aside," Bush said. "It's also important to put our political parties in the background as we focus on doing what's right for the country."

Bush stressed that while it is vital to protect the homeland, the best way to stop terrorists is to "chase the killers down wherever they think they can hide and bring them to justice."

"We're making progress," he told the crowd. "Sometimes you'll read about it, and sometimes you won't."

He said the U.S. military has performed brilliantly in Afghanistan and called for Congress to quickly pass the fiscal 2003 Defense Budget Request. "(Congress doesn't) need to delay the defense bill in a time of war," he said. "They need to deliberate like they're supposed to and get it to my desk."

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