- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

Homeland: The word has flooded into the American vocabulary on a tide of presidential determination, now the symbol of those who will guard us from sea to shining sea.

Old-fashioned, gutsy, reassuring: homeland is not a fancy word. But it gives appropriate character to our new Office of Homeland Security, brought to life in President Bush's speech Thursday night.

Yet this is no new term, coined by some erudite White House wordsmith with an eye for public relations. In some circles, "homeland" has been part of the patois for years.

A bipartisan security commission composed of former lawmakers, in fact, recommended a "Cabinet-level National Homeland Security Agency" be established only 10 days after Mr. Bush took office in January.

But the word so evocative of the World War II home-front era is older than that.

"The term 'homeland defense' first came up in a 1997 report from the National Defense Panel," said Randy Larsen, director of the Virginia-based ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, a nonprofit public service research group that offers definitions of both homeland defense and security at their Web site (www.homelandsecurity.org).

The defense report itself recommended cranking up efforts against terrorism, nuclear attack and other unthinkable threats to America. The idea has resonated through security and military sectors alike for four years.

"Before September 11, most people didn't think much about the possibility of attacks on these shores, on the homeland," Mr. Larsen said. "That has changed. The public is coming to terms with it."

Mr. Larsen is teaching a course titled "Homeland Security" for military and security specialists at the National War College this fall. The general public, meanwhile, is just beginning to understand that about 40 federal agencies and offices have been cobbling together anti-terrorism security policies in recent years.

"Using the term 'homeland security' is a brilliant stroke. The public needs to hear this," said William J. Taylor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which offers multiple reports on domestic security at its Web site (www.csis.org).

"And there are more brilliant reports on homeland defense out there than you can shake a stick at," Mr. Taylor said. "Now we must move past bureaucratic inertia and budget issues. Now we must organize."

Indeed, the idea of homeland security is moving into practical rather than theoretical use. Yesterday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described the newest incarnation of the term as "a coordinated, integrated and comprehensive national strategy."

And while the public has a "need to know" about the new office, "they don't need to be privy to every detail about operations. There's an appropriate amount of information which should be made public," said Mr. Taylor.

The White House, apparently, agrees with such thinking. "I think, frankly, that the American people take encouragement from the fact that this government will not have loose lips," Mr. Fleischer said yesterday.

Few details are available anyway, though some media accounts are already calling Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge the "homeland security czar" and assume he will work out of the West Wing. Mr. Ridge is to take on the new Cabinet-level appointment in about two weeks.

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