- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002


The White House released its long-awaited national security strategy yesterday, emphasizing the creation of President Bush's proposed Homeland Security Department and calling for new laws such as uniform national rules for obtaining a driver's license.

"Our enemy is smart and resolute. We are smarter and more resolute," Mr. Bush said in a letter to the nation accompanying the 100-page strategy.

The document, the first of its kind in U.S. history, says the administration's goals are to prevent terrorism, reduce vulnerability to attacks and minimize damage from any that do occur. It leaves little doubt that groups such as al Qaeda are all but certain to strike again.

"Our society presents an almost infinite array of potential targets that can be attacked through a variety of methods," says a summary of the strategy, that Mr. Bush planned to detail formally today at the White House.

"We must be prepared to adapt as our enemies in the war on terrorism alter their means of attack," the summary says.

Congress is already debating the Homeland Security Department blueprint Mr. Bush proposed before finalizing the strategy, which had led some Democrats to charge that the agency plan was premature. But the White House document goes much further, recommending changes in state and federal laws and outlining long-range initiatives in the domestic war against terrorism.

For example, the strategy suggests that states adopt similar laws for getting a driver's license to guard against ease of access by terrorists and that states make terrorism insurance more readily available to businesses and property owners.

On the federal level, it says that extradition agreements with other nations should be expanded; that the federal government should get greater authority to call out the National Guard; and that the president have greater power to transfer money appropriated by Congress to deal with terrorist threats inside U.S. borders.

In addition to the new Cabinet-level agency, the strategy recommends several key initiatives, such as augmenting vaccine stockpiles, enhancing the FBI's analysis capabilities and improving computer security.

Release of the strategy came a few hours after Tom Ridge, the White House homeland security chief, urged lawmakers to reconsider making broad changes to Mr. Bush's plan for the new agency.

Mr. Ridge singled out the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency as components that must not be excluded.

"There are certain basic components that the president feels are necessary," Mr. Ridge told reporters after testifying before the nine-member House Select Committee on Homeland Security, which will assemble a bill creating the department later this week for House floor consideration.

A dozen House committees made numerous changes last week to Mr. Bush's plan. They include keeping FEMA independent to deal with natural disasters and retaining the Coast Guard in the Transportation Department amid concern that a move would reduce emphasis on such duties as marine search-and-rescue and maintaining fisheries.

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