Bush Reaffirms Need for Homeland Defense
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 19, 2002 President Bush reaffirmed in a speech here today that his most important jobs are to defend the homeland and protect Americans from terrorist killers.
Bush, speaking to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Conference, said terrorists are after America because "we love freedom."
He said the terrorist groups cannot stand that Americans allow people to worship freely. "We love the idea of people being able to come to our country and realize dreams," he said. "We love the idea of people being able to freely debate issues. We love freedom, and these cold-blooded killers hate freedom. And that's why they want to come and hurt America. And we are not going to let them."
He explained the rationale behind his proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security. Bush has suggested that more than 100 different agencies with more than 150,000 people be combined under a new cabinet-level agency. He said the current state makes it difficult to coordinate efforts.
"It makes it difficult to do a job if you're trying to chase down 100 different agencies, because they're in different departments," Bush said. "The Coast Guard is in the Transportation Department -- and that's fine, except for the fact that there's a new world in America where our No. 1 priority is to protect the homeland, and the job of the Transportation Department is not homeland security."
The Customs Service is important in protecting the homeland, Bush said. "It's part of understanding what's coming into our country and whether we want it in our country or not. And yet it's a part of the Treasury Department. The Treasury Department is not responsible for homeland security."
He said these agencies must come under one head whose everyday job is to protect America. He said such an agency must be organized so information flows freely, so there's responsibility and accountability, and to help agencies adjust to their new, primary responsibility of homeland security.
Bush thanked leaders of both parties in Congress for their acceptance and encouragement of his plan. He said, however, that he is afraid others in Congress may fight the plan to protect political turf rather than work together to protect America.
He told the carpenters that the war on terror is bigger than just a person or a network. "The war on terror is to address the threats that will face our children in the future," he said. Bush told the union that the greatest threat facing the world is the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of regimes run by leaders who hate freedom.
He said the world must guard against an al Qaeda-type organization getting weapons of mass destruction from countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea and using them to blackmail the world. "I'm a patient man," Bush said. "We'll use all tools at our disposal. But for the good of our children, and for the good of freedom, we must not allow the world's worst regimes to threaten us and our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons."
Bush praised the FBI and CIA for finding new ways to work together to defeat the scourge of terrorism. He said finding new ways for the two agencies to cooperate would make America safer.
"The NO. 1 priority of this government is to button up our homeland so that the American people can go about their lives without fear of another attack from one of these killers," he said. "And we're making progress."
But defensive measures never won a war, Bush said. The United States will "run these killers down one by one and bring them to justice, he said.
This will not be easy because the enemy is a shadowy, difficult target. "You know, I can't imagine what was going through their minds when they attacked America," he said to the union members. "I guess, and assume, that they thought we were so weak, so feeble, so self-absorbed, so materialistic, that after Sept. 11 we might file a lawsuit or two.
"But they found out America thinks differently. And they're finding out we've got a fabulous military."
Bush said the fiscal 2003 defense budget request is large for two reasons. First, "my attitude is anytime we commit one of our youngsters into battle or into harm's way, they deserve the best training, the best equipment, the best pay possible," he said.
Second, the war on terror is going to take a while to win, he said. "Just because we've routed the Taliban in Afghanistan doesn't mean the war has ended," Bush said. "We have got a long way to go to secure the homeland, to defend freedom and to defeat this enemy. And it's important for the American people to understand that."
He said the defense budget sends the message to enemies that the United States is in the war for the long haul. "There's not a calendar on my desk that I flip and say, 'OK, it's over, it's time to quit,'" he said. "No, it's time to quit when the homeland is secure."