- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

PORT ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) President Bush yesterday assured port-security workers that his plans to create a Homeland Security Department would make the nation safer.
Standing in the shadow of towering cargo loaders at New York Harbor, Mr. Bush said bringing more than 100 government agencies under the umbrella of his proposed Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security was the right thing to do.
"It'll make your jobs easier for those of you involved with the agencies I'm talking about," Mr. Bush told hundreds of Coast Guard members and Port Authority police officers and rescue workers.
"It'll make our federal government more responsive," Mr. Bush said. "It will allow us to communicate better. It will allow all of you to make sure that the hard hours you're putting in are able to more secure the homeland."
Congress is debating Mr. Bush's plan to remake the government with the intent of improving domestic security. Some skeptical lawmakers question how effective it would be in filtering intelligence, and whether it would eliminate turf battles now plaguing intelligence-gathering agencies.
Mr. Bush was eager to dispel those doubts yesterday.
"If cultures need to be changed within the agencies, we'll change the cultures," Mr. Bush said.
The proposed department would unite several federal agencies responsible for keeping dangerous cargo from slipping through the nation's ports. To boost support for his proposal, Mr. Bush showcased Port Elizabeth, where numerous federal agencies must cooperate with two states and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Accompanied by several Cabinet members on a hot, muggy day, Mr. Bush toured a display of equipment for dealing with hazardous materials, examining one device that detects nerve agents such as mustard gas. He spoke while standing beside a Coast Guard cutter carrying an orange helicopter that patrols local waters and intercepts suspicious boats.
Together, Port Elizabeth and nearby Port Newark form the largest seaport on the East Coast, moving more cargo than anywhere else on the Atlantic coasts of North and South America.
But an overwhelmed Customs Service can search only 2 percent to 3 percent of the 3,500 containers that arrive daily at the New Jersey ports and neighboring facilities in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The containers, arriving from foreign ports, are loaded onto trucks or trains for delivery nationwide.
Also yesterday, the president set a record in campaign fund raising, bringing in more than $700,000 for a vulnerable House candidate.
Mr. Bush's campaign event raised at least $730,000 for Rep. Mike Ferguson, New Jersey Republican, a freshman in a competitive race to hold his seat. It was a record for a presidential fund-raising event for a single House candidate, an Associated Press survey found. The White House did not disagree.


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