- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

Our country is under attack. Select groups of individuals have made it widely known that their ultimate purpose is to kill Americans by the thousands and destroy the freedoms fundamental to the American way of life. There is no sign that this hatred of Americans will end soon. The war we are waging on terrorism has been going on for nine months and will continue for years to come. We need to prepare for this future and work towards constructing new, long-term defenses against terrorism.
Since the vicious attacks of September 11, President Bush has been charged with the daunting task of re-evaluating our massive government bureaucracy to determine where problems are and how they can be corrected. The proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security is the result of deliberation and calculated planning, and it should be commended. This is the right step. It is a question of our national survival. This plan pursues the purpose of vastly improving the coordination, communication and response of our government.
The new Cabinet-level department will bring under one roof all who are directly responsible for providing some measure of homeland security, eliminating the stove-piping that has plagued so many agencies and caused serious breakdowns in coordination. The plan will hopefully get us beyond the turf wars that have traditionally surfaced in times of importance, and get various agencies of the government aligned, working together for a common goal.
Mr. Bush's plan makes sense for a number of reasons. Most important in the light of recent events is an issue that I continually pressed over and over again with the past administration: We have serious issues of cross-agency communication failure. Time after time, various agencies that have responsibility in the area of homeland security fail to communicate with one another. This is a huge problem for us and inhibits our efforts to protect ourselves as a nation. We have obviously seen this occur most recently relative to the information coming out about September 11. But it is not unique to that situation. There is also an attitude which grows up in many of our agencies that they are insular and must protect their turf. This new plan will break down those barriers and allow for cross-fertilization of people and ideas.
I have been working with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Mr. Bush on the border security portion of the new Department of Homeland Security. This part of the proposal parallels legislation that I introduced in March to bring all agencies that play a role in border security under one department to focus more precisely and effectively on securing our borders. One of the most pressing problems that we as a nation are confronting in the war on terrorism is how we protect our borders. We have traditionally been privileged with the freedom of enjoying our open borders; unfortunately, people who wish to cause us harm have taken advantage of that openness.
Our borders are not as secure as they should be because the various agencies responsible for managing our borders are presently disoriented, dysfunctional, dispersed and uncoordinated. What we have today are various departments spread around the government, each reporting to a separate authority, and not communicating with each other. It is like an untrained dog sled team pulling the sled in different directions. Mr. Bush's proposal creates a coordinated central management point for all border security activity, in addition to addressing the other core elements of homeland security.
The concept I introduced in legislation earlier this year, and which the administration has embraced, would bring coherence to this situation by taking those agencies that are responsible for protecting our borders and creating one organization with a single individual at the helm. Under my plan, this department would house the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Coast Guard, large elements of the Immigration and Naturalization Service including the Border Patrol, elements of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program. Mr. Bush's plan takes this concept of consolidation even further and appropriately applies it to the entire counterterrorism effort. He logically expanded the focus. A plan of this magnitude with the momentum of the top-level administration and the support of Congress can move quickly.
This plan is a good plan, a plan that has been unfortunately forced into action by the horrific attacks on our country. It accomplishes the goal of ensuring that everyone is rowing the same boat in the same direction, a fundamental condition for winning the war on terrorism.

Sen. Judd Gregg is a Republican from New Hampshire.


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