- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

The attacks of September 11 made it abundantly clear that our previous organizations and methods of coping with terrorism were woefully inadequate. On Oct. 8, President Bush appointed Tom Ridge to coordinate the administration's anti-terrorism efforts.

Mr. Ridge will not succeed in the war on terrorism without command authority. He will need to exercise direct operational control over a number of agencies and to closely coordinate many others if he is to succeed. This will require significant organizational changes and congressional legislation. Without it, Mr. Ridge will have to persuade, not act; he will talk the talk and not walk the walk.

The Hart-Rudman Commission reviewed the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47) with the goal of adapting it for the 21st century. It devoted significant attention to the future threat of global terrorism and predicted that massive attacks were imminent. It recommended that a separate Department for Homeland Security be formed. The Gilmore panel, tasked with assessing domestic response capabilities for terrorism, has issued preliminary recommendations to its third annual report due in December. It foresaw a continuation of small-scale attacks and recommended the creation of an Office of Homeland Security. Its director would be charged with better coordinating existing agencies.

Mr. Bush elected to follow a watered-down version of the Gilmore model and created a Directorate of Homeland Security within the Executive Office of the President, similar to the drug czar's office. The executive order relies on coordination, but never mentions control. As a result, Mr. Ridge lacks the essential element of controlling agencies directly involved in getting the job done. Even with improved coordination, the drug czar-like structure cannot deal rapidly with crises caused by terrorists. To be effective, Mr. Ridge needs the authority to exercise operational control over those units combating terrorism. Importantly, he needs the clout of Congress to apply budgetary control, sanctions and oversight. Because this will be a long war, the Office of Homeland Security needs congressional mandate. Otherwise, it will not be institutionalized to continue under changing office-holders and differing personal relationships between the director and the president.

As commander in chief, the president conducts wars overseas through his military commanders. For the first time in the modern era, the United States is faced with fighting a foreign enemy on American territory. This war on two fronts requires a civilian leader for domestic operations with powers similar to a military theater commander. During the Gulf War, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was temporarily given control over units he needed for joint operations. These units were selected from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as established under NSA 47.

The director of homeland security needs a counterpart to the military command and control system, commonly known as Joint Operations, Planning and Execution System (JOPES). JOPES integrates the essential elements of command, control, communication, intelligence, planning and logistics to give the military commander an effective fighting force. A congressional act paralleling JOPES will give Mr. Ridge the authority, tools and resources to win this war. The system created by the act could prevent public confusion such as the different responses of the House and Senate to the anthrax attack, and Mr. Ridge and California Gov. Gray Davis over the imminence of bridge attacks.

I have been a member of a panel of officials and experts that has held post-mortems on terrorist attacks. In the past several years coordination improved among the many disparate agencies involved in fighting terrorism. However, it is my strong conviction that Mr. Ridge's efforts at coordination will not do the job. He will be stymied by the departments' and agencies' differing organizational structures, lines of authority and cultures. Without operational control, he will have to supervise people with split loyalties, making the task virtually impossible. Nothing short of command authority under congressional fiat will allow Mr. Ridge to succeed.

Units on the home front dealing with terrorism are only portions of departments and agencies with broader responsibilities, e.g., the State Department, Treasury Department and Justice Department. These specialized units dealing with terrorism must be detached from their parent organizations and placed under the operational control of Mr. Ridge. Our intelligence activities, critical infrastructure protection and health facilities obviously need gearing up, and could be coordinated by operational boards and the like. However, operational agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and portions of the Coast Guard and Immigration and Naturalization Service must be placed under the homeland security director.

This will give Mr. Ridge control over border and coastal patrols, offices issuing visas and tracking aliens, customs collectors, components protecting critical information and physical infrastructure, and units dealing with continuity and recovery. The more than 40 governmental departments and agencies will zealously guard their turf and not willingly or easily cede control of any part of their organizations. But neither was it believed that the military departments would bow to NSA 47.

The United States cannot afford to be complacent. Whereas we could deal with criminal acts by traditional means, the attacks of September 11 demand a different response; this time it is war. The American military commanders in Afghanistan have been given the tools and authority to win; now Congress needs to give Mr. Ridge the authority and tools to win on the home front.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny was a special adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush on arms control.


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