Bush Proposes New Homeland Security Department
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 6, 2002 President Bush will ask Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security, a new cabinet position the sole mission of which is to protect the American homeland.
Bush spoke to the nation on the proposal and other aspects of the war on terrorism June 6.
Bush addressed allegations that U.S. intelligence services missed clues that would have thwarted the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. "Based on everything I've seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th," Bush said. "Yet we now know thousands of trained killers are plotting to attack us. And this terrible knowledge requires us to act differently.
"If you are a front-line worker for the FBI, the CIA or some other law enforcement or intelligence agency and you see something that raises suspicions, I want you to report it immediately," he continued. "I expect your supervisors to treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Information must be fully shared so we can follow every lead to find the one that may prevent tragedy."
Bush said the United States has made tremendous gains in protecting critical infrastructure. But as the government has learned more of the threat, he came to the conclusion that agencies must be reorganized to deal more effectively with the threat.
The new federal department would transform and realign a patchwork of agencies from their current organizations into one department, White House officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Customs Service and the Secret Service are just a few of the agencies that would be part of the new department. They said they would like to see the new department up and running by the end of 2002.
All told, more than 150,000 people would come under the Department of Homeland Security, officials said.
The proposal is a result of experiences gained since the terror attacks of Sept. 11. In October, President Bush appointed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as the homeland security adviser. White House officials would not say if Ridge would be the new department secretary.
Bush said during his address that more than 100 different government organizations have pieces of homeland security. "Tonight, I propose a permanent cabinet-level department of Homeland Security to unite essential agencies that must work more closely together," he said. "Employees of this new agency will come to work each morning knowing their most important job is to protect their fellow citizens."
The proposed department would cover four major areas: border and transportation security; emergency preparedness and response; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures; and information analysis and infrastructure protection.
Bush said the new department would make Americans safer. It would coordinate communications with the American people, private companies and organizations and all levels of government regarding threats and preparedness. The department would aid state and local governments in training and equipping fire fighters and police -- the first responders to terrorist attacks.
The department would also coordinate efforts to protect Americans from biological attacks and the effects of other weapons of mass destruction. The department would review and independently assess information gleaned by the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies.
Finally, the new department would eliminate many duplicative administrative functions and place more officers, agents and resources in the field.
"The reason to create this department is not to increase the size of government, but to increase its focus and effectiveness," Bush said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a statement after the president's announcement. In it, he said, "Because of the new national security environment we face, it is clearly time for a Department of Homeland Security."
"The times require new priorities, a need to act and a new sense of urgency," the secretary's statement emphasized.
He noted that DoD has been refocusing its attention on the evolving new threats since the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review and that homeland defense has been the top priority.
"We look forward to working with the newly proposed organization to do everything possible to provide for our country's national defense," Rumsfeld said.
The Defense Department has already shifted resources to defend the homeland. In April, it announced the creation of the U.S. Northern Command, which will begin operations Oct. 1. The command will be the department's single point of contact for homeland security and civil support.