- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

President Bush yesterday proposed the creation of a Department of Homeland Security that would consolidate dozens of federal agencies into one umbrella Cabinet-level office charged with protecting Americans from another terrorist attack.
"Right now, as many as a hundred different government agencies have some responsibilities for homeland security and no one has final accountability," Mr. Bush said last night in a prime-time televised speech from the White House.
The new department would assume oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Border Patrol and the Secret Service, among dozens of other agencies.
"I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the American homeland and protecting the American people," Mr. Bush said in his 12-minute speech.
The president wants both houses of Congress, which must approve the proposal, to take up the matter before the end of the legislative year and have the department up and running by Jan. 1.
"Only the United States Congress can create a new department of government. So tonight I ask for your help in encouraging your representatives to support my plan. We face an urgent need, and we must move quickly, this year, before the end of the congressional session," he said.
The new department would consolidate nearly 170,000 federal employees and be bankrolled by about $38 billion in budgets from the agencies it would absorb.
"The staff of this new department will be largely drawn from the agencies we are combining. By ending duplication and overlap, we will spend less on overhead, and more on protecting America," the president said.
Mr. Bush said for the first time this week that it is "clear" the FBI and CIA failed to communicate properly. White House sources say he is angry about the recent finger-pointing between the intelligence agencies.
"We are now learning that before September 11, the suspicions and insights of some of our front-line agents did not get enough attention," Mr. Bush said in last night's speech. "Information must be fully shared, so we can follow every lead to find the one that may prevent tragedy."
He added that his administration "supports the important work of the intelligence committees in Congress to review the activities of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
"We need to know when warnings were missed or signs unheeded, not to point the finger of blame, but to make sure we correct any problems, and prevent them from happening again," Mr. Bush said.
Still, the president also said he had seen no indication that the September 11 attacks could have been thwarted, even with better communication.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer evaded questions yesterday about whom Mr. Bush would nominate as the department's first secretary.
Tom Ridge, who gave up the governorship of Pennsylvania in October to become director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, is expected to top the list, but Mr. Fleischer went out his way yesterday not to acknowledge the assumption, saying only that Mr. Ridge "is going to be the face and the voice of the person fighting for the creation of this department."
The Department of Homeland Security will have four divisions:
Border and Transportation Security, which will take over the Immigration and Naturalization Service from the Justice Department, the Coast Guard from the Transportation Department and the Customs Services from the Treasury Department, as well as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the Agriculture Department and the Federal Protective Service from the General Services Administration.
Emergency Preparedness and Response, which will combine the independent Federal Emergency Management Agency, the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response assets from the Health and Human Services Department, the domestic emergency support team from the Justice Department; the nuclear-incident response from the Energy Department, the Office of Domestic Preparedness from the Justice Department and the FBI's national domestic preparedness office.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures, which will oversee the work of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., the Health and Human Services Department's biodefense research program and the Agriculture Department's Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, which will analyze intelligence from the FBI and CIA and absorb the Secret Service, the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office at the Commerce Department, the Federal Computer Incident Response Center from GSA, the National Communications Systems division at the Defense Department, and the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the FBI.
The FBI and CIA would remain independent agencies and be unaffected for the most part, Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Bush said the events of September 11 have made clear the government must adapt to foresee and prevent future attacks.
"As we have learned more about the plans and capabilities of the terrorist network we have concluded that our government must be reorganized to deal most effectively with the new threats of the 21st century," he said.
Mr. Bush appointed Mr. Ridge nine days after the September 11 attacks to the White House Office of Homeland Security and charged him with designing a reorganized entity that would coordinate intelligence and speed communication to jurisdictions.
His report to Mr. Bush was due in July, prompting some White House officials to speculate that yesterday's proposal announcement was moved up to mute criticism in hearings on Capitol Hill that the FBI and CIA overlooked key clues before attacks, which killed more than 3,000 Americans.
Mr. Ridge has been at the center of political fighting over whether Congress has oversight duties toward his position and whether Congress can require him to testify. The White House has maintained that since he is a presidential adviser, Congress has no oversight duties.
The head of the new Cabinet-level agency would require Senate approval.
The White House office, which has about 100 employees, still will exist after the creation of the department but will become more of an advisory body to the president.
Mr. Fleischer acknowledged that the massive reorganization which he said is the largest since President Truman unified the armed forces into one department in 1947 could lead to some turf battles.
"Reorganizing the government is never easy. It involves turf, it involves hardworking Americans who enjoy being in the agencies that they're in who will have to adjust to change. And as the president discussed with the Homeland Security Council this morning, change is not easy, but it's important to do this," he said.
Congress also will be guarding its turf as 88 committees and subcommittees have some power over the affected agencies.
Mr. Fleischer said the department probably would have its own federal building, but some agencies will remain where they are.

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