- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

President Bush yesterday signed legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security to prevent domestic terror attacks, initiating the largest federal reorganization in more than 50 years.
"The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil, will be met with a unified, effective response," said Mr. Bush, who also nominated Tom Ridge to be the department's first secretary.
Mr. Ridge, current director of the White House Office of Homeland Security and a former Pennsylvania governor, is expected to win confirmation easily for the Cabinet-level post when Republicans reclaim control of the Senate in January.
"The new department will analyze threats, will guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure and coordinate the response of our nation to future emergencies," Mr. Bush said in a White House bill-signing ceremony.
The president also said he will nominate Navy Secretary Gordon England to be Mr. Ridge's deputy, and Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, to be undersecretary of border and transportation security.
The Department of Homeland Security will consolidate 22 federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, Secret Service and Border Patrol, into one department with 170,000 employees, most of whom are already on the payroll.
The federal reorganization, the most sweeping since the creation of the Defense Department in 1947, will take at least a year and as long as two to complete, a White House spokesman said.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and a sponsor of an early bill to create the department, warned against bureaucratic foot-dragging.
"While we have been debating the creation of this department, our terrorist enemies have been plotting and planning to exploit our vulnerabilities. We must close the gaps in our domestic defenses as quickly as humanly possible," he said.
Ridge spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the department's leadership structure will be in place within three months.
Traveling the country this year during midterm election campaigns, Mr. Bush won raucous applause as he repeatedly vowed to reject a "lousy" homeland security bill proposed by Senate Democrats. Political analysts said the issue was a major factor in the Nov. 5 elections, in which Republicans regained control of the Senate and maintained control of the House.
Mr. Bush proposed the department's creation after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but Senate
Democrats stalled the bill for months, refusing to grant the president the broad powers he sought to hire, fire and move workers in the new department.
Among the crowd in the East Room for the signing ceremony, which spilled out into White House hallways, were union leaders invited by the president.
He told them, "We look forward to working with you to make sure your people are treated fairly in this new department."
Mr. Bush said the department will not guarantee safety but will be a crucial first step to protecting Americans from attack.
"With a vast nation to defend, we can neither predict nor prevent every conceivable attack in a free and open society," he said. "No department of government can completely guarantee our safety against ruthless killers who move and plot in shadows, yet our government will take every possible measure to safeguard our country and our people."
Mr. Bush called the department's creation an "immense task" and predicted that "adjustments will be needed along the way."
"Yet this is pressing business, and the hard work of building a new department begins today," he said.
Although the FBI and CIA will not be part of the new department, a division will analyze and coordinate the flow of intelligence in hopes of thwarting terrorist attacks.
"This new department will analyze intelligence information on terror threats collected by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and others. The department will match this intelligence against the nation's vulnerabilities and work with other agencies in the private sector and state and local governments to harden America's defenses against terror," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush will submit a reorganization plan within the next 60 days. Under the new law, agencies can be transferred no sooner than 90 days from receipt of that plan. The administration has a year to consolidate the two dozen federal agencies, but full integration is expected to take several years.
"While the nation is continuing to be protected today, there's no question the new agency will go through growing pains. Wrinkles are going to have to be ironed out," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
The first set of agencies including the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation Safety Administration and the General Service Administration's federal protective services is scheduled to move into the new department March 1.
On April 1, the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center joins the department; a month later, the Pentagon's national communication system moves; and one month after that, the Agriculture Department's Plum Island Animal Disease Center joins.
During the ceremony, Mr. Bush also reported progress in the war on terror.
"With the help of many nations, with the help of 90 nations, we're tracking terrorist activity, we're freezing terrorist finances, we're disrupting terrorist plots, we're shutting down terrorist camps. We're on the hunt, one person at a time.
"Many terrorists are now being interrogated. Many terrorists have been killed. We've liberated a country," Mr. Bush said. "This act takes the next critical steps in defending our country against the continuing threat of terrorism. The threat of mass murder on our own soil will be met with a united, effective response."
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush signed legislation to help protect the nation's 361 ports by adding security agents, restricting access to sensitive areas and requiring ships to provide more information about cargo, crew and passengers.
Today, the president will sign legislation on terrorism insurance.


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