Bush: Homeland Security Department is Critical to Victory Over Terrorism
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2003 President Bush today told Homeland Security Department employees that their efforts are critical components in the campaign against global terrorism.
Twenty-two agencies will officially merge tomorrow to round out formation of the new organization.
"We created this cabinet department in a time of war," Bush pointed out. "And every professional in the Department of Homeland Security plays a valuable role in winning the first war of the 21st century."
The president acknowledged neither perfect security nor total protection is possible against "a hidden network of cold-blooded killers," given America's vast size and its open and democratic government.
However, Bush pledged "to do everything in our power to defeat this enemy and to defend our people while upholding the great Constitution of the United States of America."
Bush said some of the new department's tasks include:
- Analyzing any vulnerability in America's infrastructure, such as at dams and seaports.
- Moving quickly to take protective action to neutralize any threats, as they are uncovered.
- Strengthening America's defenses against cyber terror and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
- Developing and deploying technologies for detecting weapons of mass destruction before they enter the United States.
- Providing early warning and identification of biological and chemical agents and using effective decontamination procedures.
- Safeguarding America's borders and transportation systems.
- Coordinating disaster relief efforts with state and local first responders.
Bush noted the new department would be a full partner in the new Terrorism Threat Integration Center that will integrate and analyze all terror-threat information collected at home and overseas.
"When the center is fully operational, it will fully house a database of known and suspected terrorists that officials across this country will be able to access -- and act upon," he explained.
And the FBI and CIA "are communicating and cooperating as never before" in fighting terrorism, the president pointed out.
In fact, preventing terrorism is the FBI's top priority today, Bush said. The Bureau, he added, has increased its counterterrorism force by nearly 40 percent.
Congress, Bush said, has been asked to provide $6 billion for Project Bio- Shield, a major research and production effort to develop and stockpile vaccines for anthrax, botulism, Ebola and plague.
"We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us," the president emphasized.
Enemies could strike America anywhere, Bush pointed out. Consequently, he said, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to coordinate relief efforts with state and local first responders.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taught America that "terrorists will try to use the openness of our country against us," Bush said.
In safeguarding the homeland, Americans "must understand and correct our vulnerabilities," Bush declared.
Border patrol is another critical Homeland Security mission, Bush said, noting that Canada and Mexico have been very helpful in assisting U.S. authorities on the look out for terrorists.
"We need to know who's coming in and who's going out of our country," the president concluded.